2011 THE YEAR I DISCOVERED TWITTER
I signed up on Twitter, about a year ago, just out of curiosity. I invented a “nick” and, presumably as I’d just hatched, my Avatar was a standard egg! I love to travel so I “followed” travel sites and also the main newspapers.
Every evening, when I turned on my laptop the screen looked at me and said “You haven’t tweeted yet.” My Twitter account is in Spanish so the translation is probably not exact but you’ll soon get used to my Spanglish. Anyway, I looked at the screen and thought “What on earth am I going to tweet?” It was absurd, I didn’t have anything relevant to say and who would want to listen to (sorry – read) me?
But one night in January 2011 – #Jan25 – life changed for many people.
I’d been there, in Cairo, in Egypt on holiday a few months previously. I remembered the vibrant, beautiful city, teeming with university students (and the infernal traffic) and friendly, educated people. I’d spent hours wandering around the grand bazaar Khan El-Khalili, gazing at the Ali Baba treasures in a million little shops.
But I also noted the lack of tourists, presumably due to the Euro crisis. Although polite, some of the traders seemed pretty desperate. One young Egyptian in particular had tears in his eyes when we decided not to buy his magic lamp – and I’d wondered how many relations, his parents, brothers, sisters or cousins, depended on him and the wage he brought home? The predicament of the working people was apparent in Cairo city centre, not to mention the homeles who live in the Cityof the Dead among the tombs in the notorious al-Arafa cemetery.
Egyptian revolution of 2011 #Jan25 Twitter vibrated as 15,000 Egyptians protested in Tahrir Square (Liberation Square), many sending SMS, photos and videos of the live Cairo demonstrations, so the whole world was able to watch the revolution for democracy unfolding via social media.
I saw their tweets, I was with those people that night, I understood them, felt for them and was afraid for them, as they were surrounded by their army. I’d seen the strong military presence when I’d been in Cairo and wasn’t wrong in thinking that the Egyptian army was the real danger.
I read the messages begging us to pray, so I prayed for them and retweeted their plea, as if this could in someway help, even though I’m not I’m not of the same faith, not even religious at the best of times. That night I uploaded a photo of the Sphinx as my Avatar…
Libyan civil war #15February saw popular uprisings in Benghazi, a place I hadn’t heard of until then, extend across the nation. The Libyan people’s peaceful demonstrations to overthrow dictator Muammar Gaddafi escalated into civil war after military planes fired on unarmed protestors in Tripoli’s Green Square, or Martyrs’ Square as it’s known now…The world was with those people, we didn’t know them personally, though we’d become accomplices through endless Twitter messages.
We’ve all heard of Benghazi now, a city with a million inhabitants, people we’d encouraged to revolt, to dream of democracy. Besieged by Gaddafi loyalist forces, we were on the verge of seeing a genocide there. The Libyan rebels asked the Western powers for help but they didn’t seem surprised, seemed resigned even, when members of the UN Security Council didn’t agree on the call for a #NFZ Libyan no-fly zone. I couldn’t believe it, that the world was going to leave these civilians to their fate, I felt sick along with many other “Westerners” commentating on the desperate situation, on Twitter that night.
Well, as everyone knows, Britain, France, Qatar and finally the USA – if I remember correctly – intervened at the last minute, sending military planes to protect Libyan airspace in order to prevent a tragedy (although not for altruism I suspect).
Sadly, on March 19 founder of independent Libya Alhurra TV, Mohammed Nabbous was shot dead by a pro-Gaddafi sniper. I watched the livestream online news coverage from Benghazi broadcast via satellite by Nabbous to evade an imposed internet blackout. His wife, pregnant with their only child, announced his death on video at the TV station which continued reporting to the world.
April 20, was one of the saddest nights I ever remember, messages came over on Twitter to confirm the death of photojournalists Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington who were killed by mortar shells while reporting from the Battle of Misrata…
Liberation Day, Benghazi , 23/10/11
Photographer: Omama Elbarassi / Source: Libyan Youth Movement on Facebook
2011–2012 Syrian uprising Meanwhile, the massacre of Syrian civilians continues as an unprecedented campaign of nationwide civil resistance calls for an end to the severe regime that has lasted for almost five decades.
Sometime back in April 2001, one of my followers who lived in Daraa disappeared off Twitter, so I sent private direct messages to anyone on his/her timeline who might be concerned, worried that something had happened. A few weeks later I received a message saying that “the user” was OK but had come off Twitter for fear of being detained. Not surprising really. It’s a death-penalty offence to speak up, describe what you see, or even think, in many places across the world.
I’ve tweeted with courageous Arab bloggers who have been imprisoned, I’ve read conversations of youths who’ve lost their fathers in the Middle East conflicts and I’ve seen men crying over the bodies of their wives lying dead in the street, and there were many other videos in YouTube that I didn’t want to see, of the dead or those tortured in the Arab Spring uprisings… but the truth shouldn’t be hidden.
The revolutions in the Arab world somehow sparked widespread civil unrest in Europe, starting with the massive #15M demonstrations throughout Spain. The cry for Real Democracy NOW in Spain swept across Europe and the world as Spanish protestors went on to inspire the Occupy Wall Street movement. Discontent of students and workers in the Western world has not only been brought about by the current economical crisis but is also due to the growing awareness of political corruption. This is especially true in Spain where democracy is relatively recent and the high unemployment figures are unprecedented…
Puerta del Sol in Madrid during the 2011 Spanish protests
Source: http://fotograccion.org/ Author: Fotograccion
During 2011, I’ve experienced all this and much, much more through Twitter…I’ve seen history taking place.
I’ve come to know and appreciate a lot of people from across the world who’ve kept me updated on global events or shown me many aspects of their countries that I had little knowledge of. People such as @WomanfromYemen, a Yemeni reporter who describes the suffering of civilians during the 2011–2012 Yemeni uprising and kindly found the time to answer my questions about her country, culture, people… and their peaceful fight for democracy.
Or @Omar_Gaza, a journalist and blogger who gives us an insight into the plight of the Palestinians, their way of life and belief that one day they will see a united country…
I have friends all over the world, I can ask them anything, about their homeland, about politics or even love, always with due respect of course, and they answer me quite frankly because I’m anonymous, it doesn’t matter who I am, my race, religion, age or sex. I’m just me @kalizamar and I connect to the whole wide world…
@kalizamar 30 december #2011in3words I discovered Twitter