The Empire strikes back III

14 Jun

So, yes, you’ve heard: The MIA Gay Girl from Damascus is actually a Straight Guy from Virginia. The story’s was over the news yesterday, on German outlets as well as American. Western and Arab outlets mainly seem to focus on the internet-inherent problem of constructed realities and reliability of information. Media over here apparently loved the idea of gay activism in a Muslim country so much that they forgot to double-check their facts. What we got instead was trigger-happy  journalism.

I am now wondering how Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its supporters will use this incident to denounce political activism and the internet community. I could imagine that Syrian political activists aren’t all too happy about a fictional character stabbing their non-fictional cause in the back.

Will keep you posted about articles discussing this issue.

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The Empire strikes back II

8 Jun

… And today the blogoshphere is abuzz with the latest on Amina Arraf: Andy Carvin has found out that no one in the Syrian LGBT scene knows her. He has also unsuccessfully tried to contact friends of hers, and now there’s an entirely new scenario in the room: Is Amina Arraf even real? Is hers just a fictional blog? Or is she a real person socializing online only? Andy Carvin shares his very interesting thoughts on tweetdeck.

The Empire strikes back

7 Jun

About a week ago, I read this article portraying gay and lesbian activists in Syria. I admired the courage to share one’s thoughts openly, to not hide behind pseudonyms, nevermind the fact that homosexuality is a crime in Syria. I was hoping these guys wouldn’t get in trouble with a regime that, during the past week, unleashed various measures of fighting back public insurgence. The ruling forces continue to use tactics such as cracking down protests, cutting off and then resuming Internet access, possibly staging incidents and using state media to disseminate their own version of the truth (this list probably goes on endlessly).

Said article and various others on the gay and lesbian scene had presented a young woman blogging openly on her life as a gay Syrian and on the current political events. Needless to say, one was left wondering whether her openness might make Amina Arraf an easy target for authorities at some point, especially since the regime seems to resort to taking every possible step to reinforce its prevalence. The fact that Amina is half American does not make the situation less worrisome.

This morning, I read on Global Voices that Amina Arraf has dissappeared, that her family does not know her whereabouts and that they’re worried she has been seized by authorities. Her cousin posted the news on Amina’s blog, and she will probably continue to update it with news on Amina.

This might come off a bit cheesy and unprofessional, but I really hope the hard-pressed regime does not immolate this young woman as a demonstration of power.

Yay, there’s a new Social Networking Site around!

6 Jun

… Only this one is Arabic.

In an interview with the National, AreebaAreeba’s founder Ayman Irshaid explains his thoughts behind the project, which was to create an online community not mainly for students, but for the entire Arab World and for Arab expats all over the world staying in touch with people at home. From the look of it,  AreebaAreeba aims at becoming the Arabic equivalent to business networking sites such as xing. But according to Irshaid, this year’s uprises saw a spike in network groups relating to the current political events in the Arab world. In this sense, AreebaAreeba seems to be somewhat of a mix of business and private networking tool.

The most interesting aspect is that the site’s in Arabic. Surely, AreebaAreeba is “yet another online community”, but with Arabic as its main language, the network site will be interesting to observe in regional competition to the market leaders Facebook and Linkedin. Some users might be tempted to join AreebaAreeba because this community  makes them feel more accommodated or “at home”. And while an astonishingly large number of Arabs has excellent command of English, there are of course millions of Arabs with very little or no knowledge of English whatsoever. Those might so far have been hesitant to join the mainly anglophone Facebook, MySpace and so on. I’m guessing that those are a perfect target group for AreebaAreeba.

Society changes and Israeli-Palestinian peace

3 Jun

Over on Foreign Affairs, Daniel Levy published a very interesting article on the changes in Israel’s demographics within the past decade.

For one, it is interesting because in media and public debates over here, I often notice a tendency to assume that the Israeli population is of a certain homogeneity regarding social and ethnic backgrounds, religious groups, political opinions, interests, etc. So for those interested in a more nuanced idea of Israeli people than the local media will provide, this article might be a helpful start.

Furthermore, more than just elaborating on current Israeli demographics and society, Daniel Levy focuses on the demographic changes and developments in Israel within the past 15 years, which is quite interesting. Using prime minister Bibi Netanyahu as a frame plot, Levy draws some conclusions on how these demographic changes affect and challenge the peace process.

Same Netanyahu, Different Israel on Foreign Affairs.