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Thousands of Iraqis Write Their Digital History

Thousands of Iraqis Write Their Digital History

Friday, 31 January, 2020 - 14:15
Iraqi protester documents the movement using his phone cameras (AFP)
Baghdad- Ali al-Sarry

What allowed the Iraqi protest movement to succeed, from Baghdad to Basra to all the central and southern governorates, is that it is a decentralized grassroots initiative aimed at "overthrowing the corrupt and making fundamental amendments to the electoral system". The protesters do not have a unified leadership and each city has its own method for protesting and mobilizing. Instead, thousands of activists on social media speak in the name of the revolution and work on conveying what had been hidden. Crucially, despite its diversity, demonstrations are unified in supporting one another and the popular movement.

Iraqi activists fight back against the conspiracy theories pushed by the party’s media machines by sharing pictures and videos. Since the protests erupted in October, protesters have been playing a fundamental role in the free circulation of information on social media, and this appeared since the outbreak of the protest with a fireball spreading on social media platforms. The demand for this kind of reporting has increased the total number of Facebook users in Iraq, with four million more people active on the platform than there were at the beginning of last year according to statistical algorithms provided by Facebook.

The activists use the platform to pay tribute to those who fall among them and document the repression that they are subjected to. When Omar Sadoun (21 years old) was killed in Nasiriyah, the activists found shared his old photos. They found out that his father died, augmenting users’ interactions with posts dedicated to him and leading many to paint "graffiti" texts and drawings condemning the authorities. Quickly, many pages have grown to establish strong credibility with sources from the ground, users and international organizations. Statistics collected by the author from the site Facebook indicate that Iraqi users interact with up to about 3,000 protest-related texts, pictures, and video clips in a single.

Social media is an essential tool used to link the groups together, coordinate logistics and launch campaigns to assist the wounded or to collect donations, sometimes to document cases of murder.

Activists also try raising morale and celebrating the movement on their pages. For example, on November 12, when engineers and craftsmen sent by the trade union arrived at a Turkish restaurant in Tahrir Square and within hours had finished providing the whole building with electricity and lighting, hundreds shared images celebrating their fortress.

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