The complete write-up
Bashar al-Assad, the Butcher, is now officially in the esteemed company of the likes of Muammar Gaddafi, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Charles Talyor and many more and a true successor to the brutality of another butcher on the face of Earth, his father, late Hafez Assad, the mercenary of the countless killings of his own countrymen in Hama in 1982.
We don’t know the extent of bloodbath by Hafez Assad in 1982 but we know what Bashar al-Assad is doing with quite certainty.
Hail Social Media!
The international initiatives are faltering one after the other owing to ‘this or that lame’ geopolitical concern but the entire global community is aware of the state inflicted atrocity in Syria now thanks to the thousands of the videos posted on YouTube and other social media platforms. Every passing week increases the count of such videos by a significant number.
In a scenario, when the traditional media is totally controlled singing paeans of the butcher Assad; when there is almost no traditional communication means available to the common Syrians, Syria has cracked down on journalists and there are very few foreign correspondents in Syria who can report on atrocities. Conditions have worsened for journalists with five journalists including the Sunday Times veteran war journalist Marie Colvin losing their lives in Syria.
Midst this doom and gloom, YouTube videos, Skype calls and text messages have been the source of information for the international community in the last one year - some frantic efforts by the rebel Syrians to draw attention seeking international intervention.
The Syrian government dismisses these videos as hoax like Assad is saying about his leaked personal emails. But such dismissals have prompted the activists to go for better packaging of the content while posting a video like identifying the place or the main protester and putting a timeline on it.
In Tunisia and Egypt, it was ‘Facebook Revolution. In Syria, what is happening is akin to a ‘YouTube Revolution’.
Okay, the international efforts might be faltering on Syria but somehow, somewhere, these brutal pictures of human killings have left indelible marks on the global psyche. And though, no world power is as blunt in advocating action as it was in case of Libya, the opinionating looks to gain ground after one year of shameless butchery as conveyed by the visual imagery of these messages.
There are reports coming in saying some Arab nations are clandestinely arming the Syrian opposition.Turkey’s plan to create a buffer zone for refugees is like spoiling the shopping pleasure of the Assads.
And now the Syrian activists, expats and the Syrian supporters in the international community are taking the protest to the next stage of the social media usage. The Guardian was provided with the leaked emails by some Syrian activists who hacked into the email accounts of the Assads. That tells us they are getting sophisticated.
And so the world now knows the phoney and caricaturized life of Syria’s strongman who bombs his own countrymen while discussing the shopping lists with his wife.
Assads might dismiss these emails lightly as the majority in Syria might not be able to access the related international coverage but slowly and gradually something is happening that is going to be lethal for the Syrian regime.
From YouTube videos, Skyping and messages, the Syrian protest is now expanding on the platforms like Facebook and Twitter. And we know the trait of these two platforms in spreading the communication – the mobilization can multiply virally even by a single small incident like it happened in Tunisia, like it happened in Egypt.
There is fertile ground for it and there have been supportive developments as the Syrian revolution completes its one year.
SYRIA IS NOT AS STERILE FOR SOCIAL MEDIA AS INITIALLY THOUGHT
Social media trends over the last year in responding to the regime's suppression claim this.
Syria is a country with over 22.5 million people and an impressive literacy rate of 86 per cent if we go by the figures available from US Department of State. According to the CIA World Factbook, Syria has over 15.5 million telecom connections including over 11.6 million cellular connections. According to a World Bank 2010 estimate, Internet penetration in Syria is around 21 per cent.
A good literacy rate, a teledensity over 70 per cent of the population and an Internet penetration of over 21 per cent - these figures are significant enough to provide the ideal ground indeed for the social media usage to extend the Arab Spring in Syria given if it gets the flare it needs.
It might come on any given day and the intensifying activity tells of the positive signs. Any brutal assassination video can fuel the unrest to a greater scale. Apart from building the solidifying base in Syria, it might grease the international opinion mobilization as well. Efforts are already initiated in this direction. As the Assad forces are busy emptying their shells on helpless men, women and children, another front is gaining ground voicing its opposition to the Assad regime’s continuance.
#UniteForSyria is an online opinion mobilization campaign launched on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. There are some 200 NGOs from 27 countries with the Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights working on it. The Activists have launched a YouTube video pledging support to the Syrian cause and are inviting others to be part of the momentum.
We still cannot say the trends related to the Syria tags have become viral on the Internet but are gaining ground slowly and can go viral soon as the Syria related online world activity in the recent days indicate. Damascus has seen intense fighting in the last two days and that is an effort by the rebels to tell the world community that they are not completely wiped out and are holding their ground by challenging Assad in the Syrian capital city.
Recent voices of the world community of arming the rebels might have been a major factor behind this resurgence. It also tells that messages from the Syrian badlands of the Assads, relayed through the social media platforms, are reaching to the world community, now even more effectively.
Assads are well aware of the damage a strong anti-regime campaign on social media platforms can bring (taking lightly the Arab Spring traits is going to be fatal for the regime). The leaked emails show efforts by the Assads to use social media for their own benefits like removing royal family impersonators to streamline the already manipulated flow of communication in Syria.
March 15 marked one year to the Syrian revolution yet nothing but advance of the Assad’s brutal regime looked only reality for certainty. Syria is unlike other Arab Spring countries. Dear to the Western powers until sometime ago, Assad has worked to weaken the opposition, control the communication platforms and maintain a strong army.
The other Arab Spring countries had a unitary face of opposition during the phase of uprising. That is not the case with Syria. State media was controlled, but the social media was strong in Egypt and Tunisia and helped spread the Arab Spring globally.
That might change now. The obscene opulence of wealth while he was bombing his own countrymen as revealed by Assads’ leaked emails might be a milestone moment in mobilizing the international opinion even more against Bashar and at the same time, can work to harden the resolve of the fighting Syrians. In spite of all the controls, Assads simply can’t stop content of these emails reaching to the large section of the Syrian population given the significant reach of the telecom connections. (Even China couldn’t stop the flow of information in case of Wukan protests!)
And who knows what more would be unearthed as the Guardian claims to be in possession of over 3000 leaked emails.
‘WikiLeaks’ revelations created many international geopolitical controversies and bad names. Isn’t it?
We might come across emails with Assads mocking and berating the international community or big leaders like Obama, Cameron or Sarkozy, using abusive words. (Just a conjecture at the moment but might be a reality as well!) - if it comes out like that, it is going to be ominous for the Assads.