Social media has been an active player in the war in Syria all along. Before Facebook-orchestrated Arab Spring that was spread to Syria in 2011, I came across Syrian students studying in Islamabad. They were very resourceful and equally respectful for their president Bashar Al Assad and his British born wife Asma Al Asad.
One of them, then working with an Arab TV channel, told me in a class discussion that it is no less than blasphemy to discuss Assad or his wife in a satirical way, much less sarcastic. Assad was not just another despot in the despots’ club of Gulf. He used to fund his youth for study in high-profile universities of the world, not least in Scandinavian countries, which now have sealed their borders for war survivors.
“For his rivals, killing is just like a ‘video game’.They set targets and do the killings but he wants to rehabilitate those spoiled by extremism”Syrian President
On Wednesday (Dec 14), Assad gave an interview to Russia’s RT TV saying that for his rivals, killing is just like a ‘video game’. They set targets and do the killings but he wants to rehabilitate those spoiled by extremism. It seems at this point of time that Assad himself walked into the trap when he initially saw targets dotting streets of Daraa and other border towns, presumably rising against his rule. Basically, most of these targets were graffiti nobody knows who wrote on the walls and social media accounts popping up on relatively hard to handle Twitter, a website not designed for expressing emotions at the first place.
Bana Alabed is a seven-year-old Twitter girl who states that she and her mother live in East Aleppo, the part of about 5000-year-old city that anti-regime allies ceded in the last. I did not follow her on Twitter until CNN and Al Jazeera told me that she is a social media ‘sensation’. These channels extensively aired her videos putting up a placard on streets against backdrop of destroyed buildings and appealing to the world for helping her and her family out. Female reporters and news presenters on these channels related sad accounts of Bana’s plight to an international audience, sobbing sometimes.
Her childish innocence is evident from the fact that she made these appeals at a time when European nationalist parties are winning elections and their rallying cry is to slam their doors shut on those Syrians who managed to reach their shores.
In these videos, Bana was making expressions kids her age do not do in Syrian culture and speaking a language that was not hers. Since Thursday (Dec 15), her Twitter account is silent. She was calling out to the world in English which means the Gulf kingdoms were not her targeted audience. She thought the west, where English is spoken, will come to her rescue.
Her childish innocence is evident from the fact that she made these appeals at a time when European nationalist parties are winning elections and their rallying cry is to slam their doors shut on those Syrians who managed to reach their shores. The demons who managed to steal out of their hell holes! UK has parted its ways from European Union, frightened that war survivors may not sneak into its streets due to free movement across the Union.
French President Francois Hollande walks Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba around press conferences to tell us that he stands with what Europe glamorises as rebels because their peoples dislike the term IS before he plays a key role in giving Turkey some extra bucks not to let Syrians set foot on his soil. Syrians were falling to their death in tumultuous seas that stand between them and their perceived saviours when Denmark was passing the law to confiscate from them the valuables they may carry other than a marriage ring.
My students used to tell me that there is an unfriendly, if discriminatory is a strong word, attitude of donors of these countries towards them because of their Pakistani nationality and I used to tell them to work harder than before instead to harboring such sentiments. But I stood corrected when I emailed to professors of culture and cognition in Denmark some questions to understand that controversial law and none of them bothered to reply. I got my reply in those non-replies.
The TV channels that are showing Bana’s tweets are actually engaged in what we may call reverse ‘cannibalism’. Marshal McLuhan in the last century explained that new media cannibalises old media to give new life to the content but in case of Bana, traditional mainstream electronic media is cannibalising new social media. It is because new media may be a public force in the US but it still has a long way to go in the Gulf. Hence, Arab Spring seems to be a vibrant marketing drive for new media in the vast and rich market of Gulf kingdoms but it failed to pick. Other than hundreds of Egyptians, over 400,000 Syrians have paid price of this failed project with their lives in addition to turmoil in Iraq and elsewhere.
Having seen western and other militants killing around in their streets, Banas in IS capital Raqqa and Adlib province have long understood this reality.
Bana is silent now. She may have realised that her knight in the shining armour is just a character in fairy tales, as it is. Having seen western and other militants killing around in their streets, Banas in IS capital Raqqa and Adlib province have long understood this reality. Now is the time for war mongering mainstream media channels to let Syrians find their own solutions lets we see their reporters or news presenters sob or weep on tweets of another Bana or photo of Omran Daqneesh, a five-year-old kid who was rescued from rubble in Aleppo.