Twitter, or the Olive Branch

Much has been said already about the effect of Social Media in mobilising the youth to grab what hitherto have been intractable and untouchable situations and catapulting them into world view, gaining tremendous moral support from the resulting wave of sympathisers and effecting real change, as has already happened in both Tunisia and Egypt.

Twitter of course has been a chief enabler of these waves. We’ve seen it shine in just about every situation since inception, particularly in the Iranian elections as well as the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts. So much weight has been put in Twitter by ‘the people’ that when the Egyptian authorities blocked the whole Internet to prevent its citizens from dispersing information, Google bought a company which enabled the transliteration of audio messages recorded on international telephone networks into Tweets!

It’s quite staggering what 140 characters can do.

Twitter has become the activists’ best friend and confident. To me what’s as important, is the direct connection it offers to people who could actually effect change, and if they can’t at least they are veritable influencers in their spheres to move issues into resolution or focus timelines. Through Twitter and its 140 characters, people from all walks of life can directly communicate with influencers like our very own foreign minister, Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, as they could too with US President Barak Obama, the US State Dept, the United Nations Secretary General, Carl Bildt, Kevin Rudd and the British Foreign Minister William Hague. Most of the ones listed above actually tweet themselves or are very aware of their channels, therefore, what better chance is there for us plebs to affect our circumstance by not only following, but engaging with these forces? I don’t think this state of affairs is going to last long, sadly. As Twitter and its influential tweeps bloom, it’s only natural to expect that the direct channels to wane.

Regardless. This is the perfect opportunity to communicate. And with communication comes understanding, and with understanding problems get to be resolved. I’ve personally witnessed several occasions where Twitter offered almost a town-hall atmosphere where people questioned and got responses from those in power, directly and without any censorship or doors between them. I do hope that this tradition will last as long as possible. We need this.

With the 10th anniversary of the Charter coming up on the 14th, and people trying to organise both virtual and physical protests and celebrations in order to get their voices heard and their grievances aired, it would be wise to be cognizant of the world around us and put that to use too, if understanding is the goal of course.

A few days ago, I reacted to this tweet from the British Foreign Minister William Hague:

@WilliamJHague: I will announce new UK Arab Partnership Fund today to support human rights, civil society & freedom of expression in countries like #Tunisia

by responding that Bahrain might benefit from that initiative too:

On Tuesday 8th February 2011, @mahmood said:

and #bahrain would welcome such attention too. “@WilliamJHague: I will announce new UK Arab Partnership Fund today to support human rights, civil society & freedom of expression in countries like #Tunisia”

Sadly I didn’t get any response from him yet. However, I understand that he’s coming to Bahrain imminently AND that he will hold a Town Hall TweetUp to specifically promote this new initiative and field questions from the Twitterverse. Once he arrives, I intend to raise this question with him again, and ascertain whether the announced program is just PR talk design to bolster the UK’s chips in the void that both France and the US have effected in Tunisia, Egypt and the larger Arab world, or are there real and tangible steps put in place within that program to realise its promise? Will he be amenable, through this virtual interaction to exerting real pressure if required to help move an intractable situation forward, vis-a-vis Bahrain? Even by simply acknowledging the fact that problems do exist in this country and maybe help create the platform on which a resolution could be fostered?

I suspect his visit to Bahrain and his schedule will be announced soon. If you’re interested, mabye you can pose your own questions too. The addresses to add to your Twitter feed are @khalidalkhalifa and @WilliamJHague and the hashtag to monitor for his answers will be #askFS.

1 Comment
  • juliyya
    12 February 2011

    During the past 18 days of being unavailable to the world because I was “watching Egypt”,I wondered with many others how their revolution actually was organized. Well, it turns out that there was an older organizational tool along with modern social media.

    BTW, your posts are now arriving from a proxy feed to my email. However they get here, I don’t care. I’m a big fan.