Facebook

The Lost Girls

Posted on Updated on

Over the last week or so, multiple stories in the news have been asking why the media is ignoring the kidnapping of more than 200 girls (some reports say as many as 276) by Boko Haram, an extremist anti-Western group in Nigeria. Yet there have been literally hundreds of Facebook posts, thousands of tweets, and dozens of stories in the media about what is going on. It took a week or two — longer than it should have, yes, considering the horror of what has been perpetrated — but in the end, this case has gotten more attention than any single case of girls abducted in armed conflict in recent memory, possibly ever. People are paying attention.

As that becomes evident, all the outcry over “why aren’t we paying attention” starts to look like it’s part of a deeper public distress: Why have we not paid attention in the past when thousands of girls — and boys — have been abducted in armed conflict? Why aren’t we paying attention, right now, to the girls caught in human trafficking webs or sold into early marriages or held in captivity as “wives” by armed groups? Why are we only now outraged? And will this outrage sustain itself as situations like this one unendingly arise? Will any amount of anger lead to any concrete solution? Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Any Given Friday

Posted on Updated on

A woman stands in the middle of a busy Damascus street. Yellow cabs honk and weave around her. Her red dress, splattered with white paint, flows in the wind along with a red fabric banner held up above her head like a translucent shield. A group of people gathers on the sidewalk to observe as she turns side to side, for all to see. As we watch them watching her through our computer screens, we hear a new sound — not a familiar chant of the revolution, but loud claps of extended applause. When she faces the camera, we finally read her words: “Stop the killing. We want to build a country for all Syrians.”

Her name is Rima Dali, and she stood in protest alone, armed with a red scarf and a powerful message, in front of the Syrian Parliament on April 8. She would be detained for two days for her dissent.

Dali’s action, while brave, would have been easy to disregard as a fleeting incident if it hadn’t happened again, a few days later, in front of the Palace of Justice. And again a few days after that, when more people occupied Dali’s place and even more onlookers clapped from the sidewalk.

Activists like Dali, who had a strong presence at the beginning of the uprising, are trying to rewind Syria‘s clock to the early months of the revolution, when the message of selmiyeh — peaceful — dominated the streets. During the past two weeks, despite the regime’s relentless violence, Syria protested like it was 2011 again.

During the 10-day lull between the announcement of U.N. and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan for a ceasefire and its implementation on April 10, violence sharply escalated in Syria — as it usually does before every international ultimatum directed at President Bashar al-Assad. But since then, while shelling and government attacks have continued in certain flashpoints, the daily death toll has decreased significantly. Within opposition circles, another sentiment was brewing even before the ceasefire: a realization that it’s time to reclaim the revolution in order to reclaim the country.

For months, the civic and social activism of these peaceful protesters have been rendered obsolete next to the physical heroics of the Free Syrian Army‘s (FSA) military operations against the regime’s brutality. Peaceful protests in city squares not only seemed impossible, but utterly useless against tanks, shells, and snipers. As armed resistance took its place within the revolution, the nonviolent activists slowly became passive pacifists. In recent days, however, that has changed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Social media isn’t a major path to radicalization – Nextgov

Posted on Updated on

Against Violent Extremism (88)
Image by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi via Flickr

 

Al Qaeda and other Muslim extremist groups are active on Facebook, YouTube and other social media, but that doesn’t mean they’re making much impact, experts testified before a House panel Tuesday.

Internet discussions are a poor replacement for in-person extremist recruiting because they lack the same level of intimidation and peer pressure, Brian Jenkins, a senior adviser at the RAND Corporation testified before the Homeland Security subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.

“Before the Internet people had to actually meet each other face to face and that plays an important role,” Jenkins said. “The Internet doesn’t have the same power because you can turn it off whenever you want to. You can play at jihadism but not be propelled into it by that face-to-face peer pressure.”

“The internet is not a vector of Al Qaeda infections,” he said. “People come to it because they’re searching for something. They’re looking for sites and they find sites that resonate with their beliefs . . . It will reinforce their radicalization but, by itself, the Internet doesn’t get them all the way there.”

The subcommittee’s ranking member Jackie Speier, D-Calif., asked about the case of five Alexandria, Va.-area Americans who were convicted by a Pakistani court in 2010 of traveling to that country to commit terrorist acts. Pakistani officials claim those men visited numerous jihadi websites before their trip. Read the rest of this entry »