General Al Jazeera story on the protests
Jack Fairweather of Islam's Advance (Newsweek/WaPo) writes a fascinating post on the role of Facebook in organizing recent protests in Egypt. He notes that the social network has engaged young moderates and liberals in the type of political activity previously reserved for Islamists. The piece also suggests that the impact of the social network might be overblown thus far. Of course, that could be true, but, then again, could you imagine reading an article like this two or three years ago?
When most people log onto Facebook, the thought of fermenting revolution is pretty far from their minds. But in the Middle East, and most recently in Egypt, Facebook has become an important platform for dissent in countries that routinely clampdown on liberal activists, and where the mosque has traditionally been the only outlet for venting political frustration.
Last month saw the arrest of Esra Abdel Fattah, 27, after she formed a group on Facebook calling for protests against the high price of food and other commodities in Egypt. Strike action was already planned by factory workers in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla al-Kobra, and the Facebook group, which attracted 64,000 members, tapped into a national mood of unrest. During Fattah’s incarceration, police clashed with protestors in Mahalla, killing three; some 500 people were detained.
By the time Egyptian police freed her two weeks ago, Fattah, an active online activist and member of the liberal al-Ghad political party, had become something of a cyber folk hero, feted by Middle Eastern bloggers and tech-minded students.