It is my belief that the people who benefit the most from social media are the ones who have no representation, no platform, and no presence elsewhere.
Millions of Arabs who found themselves alienated from public discourse turned to Internet forums and chatted, then vented until they reacted by shouting at the top of their lungs, “The people want to change the system!” It’s a powerful line that shook the dictatorships of the Middle East, awakened the consciousness of the world and will echo in my mind and the minds of millions of Arabs around the world forever.
For many years, Arabs watched mostly in silence as the west supported their countries’ abusive archaic dictatorships. For some of us, it’s a lifetime of witnessing helplessly as Arab “leaders” did little or nothing to improve their people’s social status and standing in the world.
Do I need to remind you that Tunisia’s Zain el-Abedine Ben Ali was an ally of the west until he fell in January? Hosni Mubarak was an integral player in the Middle East Peace Process before we (world leadership and media) called him a “dictator!” Let the record show that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi set up his mobile tent on U.S. soil and ranted freely for over an hour at the United Nations in 2009 calling the world body “useless” and ripping its charter on the podium among other bizarre behavior he exhibited during his infamous speech. Only now after brave Libyans stood up to him, we (world leadership and media) decided to “expose” all his abuses of power and are asking him to step down. I can assure you, the same is true of all other Arab monarchs and presidents for life. There are enough skeletons and dirty laundry on all of them to fill an entire kingdom, sheikhdom, sultanate, emirate or state. Why don’t we speak up now and call them by the names they deserve? Why are we waiting for blood to spill before we step in and give ourselves a pat on the back for the people’s hard-earned freedom?
Arabs also watched extremists hijack their religion and national identities and commit the most heinous of crimes in their name. Their patience was running thin as “experts” and “analysts” [mostly western with no real knowledge or interest in who Arabs really are or what they really think and want] analyzed them, defined them, called them names and drew conclusions as to “why they hate us” without even a shred of proof that such animosity exists or is widespread as many believed.
In a few installments this week, I’d like to explore some milestones with you where I witnessed from a very unique perspective how Arabs shifted slowly but surely from passive observers to active players in their own future. Because I firmly believe that social media were made for Arabs and any noble people like them who yearn for freedom and a good life in their nations but find themselves robbed of their right to both.
Let’s start with this line from my 2009 blog referenced above entitled Women, bloggers & gays lead change in the Arab World
“Several new lines are being drawn in the Middle East’s desert sand simultaneously.... If they continue to be drawn at this rate longer and thicker, it’s hard to foresee any governments, censors or jails being able to stop them.”
Octavia Nasr - October 14, 2009
Arab winds of change
Who is driving real change in the Arab countries? Not politicians, but feminists, gay people and bloggers
By Brian Whitaker
Social networks: A niche for the voiceless
A compassionate deal? Libya, Lockerbie, Arabs & The West
Muammar Gaddafi’s 2009 speech at the United Nations