Five influential hashtags on the Middle East and how they got started

Published October 7th, 2015 - 05:23 GMT
About 30 people in Rabat, Morocco pay a tribute to Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian boy who was found dead on the Turkish shore. (AFP/File)
About 30 people in Rabat, Morocco pay a tribute to Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian boy who was found dead on the Turkish shore. (AFP/File)

Social media trends inspired from the Middle East have the ability to reach an audience around the world. And activists in the region have taken full advantage of Twitter's power.

One hashtag can be a gamechanger, in a conflict-torn region where global politics and media play a big role in how countries are shaped. Here are five influential trends to remember.

1. Daesh's beheading of American journalist James Foley sparked outrage, instigating the US involvement in Syria with coalition airstrikes. On Twitter, a movement to stop Daesh (ISIS) propaganda circulating on social media started with this hashtag.

2. Last year Israel began the Gaza war in summer 2014 that led to more than 2,000 Palestinian and 66 Israeli deaths.

A few days after the Israeli air raids began, activists on social media began their campaign for peace between Jews and Arabs. The Twitter storm ensued, along with a Facebook page dedicated to the cause.

3. One photo of a drowned Syrian boy, washed up on Turkish shores, changed views around the world on the refugee crisis.

Social media played a major role in how fast the photo got circulated — the hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik, meaning "humanity washed ashore" in Turkish, became viral in hours.

Translation: Humanity has been dead for a long time. 

4. This hashtag may not have changed history. But to Muslims around the world, Snapchat's #Mecca_live became a chance for the international community to see Islam in a positive light. The hashtag was trending in areas all around the world.

Translation: God, open Snapchat today and let the world find #Mecca_live. Know that we have a city worth all the world. I hope God builds you up, Mecca

5. This hashtag was a movement to change the narrative around what's considered "beautiful" in the Western world. While most are still primarily see portrayals Arabs and Middle Easterners as "terrorists," #TheHabibatiTag (from "habibti," meaning "my love") was an attempt to expose people to greater diversity and "beauty" in Arabs.

By Hayat Norimine


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