In my last post, I mentioned the wonderful site Global Voices Online -- a sort of clearinghouse for international blogs. The site "aggregates, curates, and amplifies the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore."
And fair play to them.
At the top of Global Voices tonight is this post from Amira Al Hussaini, detailing the censorship in Syria of the social networking site Facebook. (Access to Google's Blogger, which hosts The Ethical Blogger, is also blocked in Syria.) Hussaini links us to the Syrian blogger Golaniya, who claims to be "neither an 'Arab' nor a 'Syrian', not even a 'female'." She blogs "for the right to be a citizen."
What follows is bold, brave and truly inspiring.
...recently there has been a cultural awakening [in Syria]; people are starting to organize their interests in concerts, galleries, conferences, plays, screenings…etc. and Facebook is facilitating the process which is very hard to do in an inactive militarily controlled society. There are no cultural institutions in Syria, no private independent NGOs, no civic institutions, who represent the populations except the government? Syrian Facebookers are trying now to represent themselves. Those who cannot be activists in a "real" Syria can be one in a virtual Syria. Facebook is becoming a tool to bring together these very individuals to promote their socially, religiously and politically prohibited thoughts. We are not talking about blocking of a social networking tool, we are talking about blocking an awareness networking tool, a chance to express, to finally speak and do something about it. It's high time to demand our right to seek ALL and ANY information regardless of its source, we have the mind to decide for ourselves what we should/should not read or believe.We have the right to organize ourselves and activate our numb citizenship. We want to be socially and politically active. We want to campaign for human rights, we want to be civilians instead of abstract "Syrians," instead of mere Muslims and Christians. We want to engage in building our nation. We don’t want to be permitted to act; we want to be voluntarily and spontaneously acting. We want to be doers and actors. We want Syria uncensored!
As we discourse here on the appropriate use of profanity and anonymity in fora such as this, it is perhaps worth reminding ourselves that freedom of expression remains out of reach in some corners of the globe.
As Ian Bremmer points out so eloquently in his book The J Curve, authoritarian regimes rely heavily on state control of the media to keep the citizenry in the dark.
...the slightest influence on their citizens from the outside could push the most rigid...states toward instability. If half the people of North Korea saw 20 minutes of CNN (or of al Jazeera for that matter), they would realize how egregiously their government lies to them about life beyond the walls. That realization would provoke widespread social upheaval. The slightest improvement in the ability of a country’s citizens to communicate with one another—the introduction of telephones, email, or text-messaging into an authoritarian state—can likewise undermine the state’s monopoly on information.
No doubt the Syrian regime feels mortally threatened by the latent power of sites such as Facebook. It is not hard to see how easily the political opposition in Syria (such as it is) could leverage these sites, both at home and abroad, to destabilize the government of Bashar al-Assad. Even the lowliest technology (think of the role of the cassette tape in the Iranian revolution of 1979) can conceivably be employed to illuminate "life behind the walls."
We should acknowledge and commend the brave struggle of dissidents such as Golaniya.