HRW Launches “140 Characters” Featuring Gulf Activists Detained, Targeted for Online Activism
2017-07-16 - 2:41 am
Bahrain Mirror: Human Rights Watch launched a feature entitled "140 Characters" that presents the profiles of 140 prominent Bahraini, Kuwaiti, Omani, Qatari, Saudi, and Emirati social and political rights activists and dissidents, and their struggles to resist government efforts to silence them. All 140 have faced government retaliation for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and many have been arrested, tried, and sentenced to fines or prison terms.
Among the names mentioned in the report from Bahrain were: Nabeel Rajab, Zainab al-Khawaja, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Ali Abdulemam, Ghada Jamsheer, Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, Naji Fateel, Ebrahim Sharif, Mahdi Abu Deeb, Ali al-Ekri, Abdul Jalil al-Singace, Abdul Ghani al-Khanjar, Mohammed Habib al-Muqdad, Sheikh Ali Salman, Khalil al-Marzooq, Hussain Hubail, Nazeeha Saeed, Mohamed al-Maskati, Sayed Yusuf al-Muhafdah, Mohammed al-Tajer, Fadhel Abbas, Matar Ibrahim Matar, Zahra al-Sheikh, Ahmed Humaidan, Ahmed al-Fardan, Jassim Radhi al-Nuaimi, Khalid Abdulaal, Abdullah Salman al-Jirdabi, Maryam al-Khawaja, Jaleela al-Sayed Ameen, Ali Faisal al-Shofa, Ahmed Radhi, Taiba Ismael, Mahmoud al-Jaziri, Ibtisam al-Sayegh.
In its elaboration on choosing the name, HRW stated, "The social media platform Twitter limits the size of each Twitter post, or tweet, to 140 characters. According to Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey, the 140 character limit was imposed to force users of the social media network to be creative.1 Along with millions of others users around the world, political dissidents and activists in the Arab Gulf States have taken up that challenge with enthusiasm. But their creativity in criticizing authoritarian governments on Twitter and other online social media often gets them into serious trouble."
The international human rights watchdog added that the number of activists is similar to the twitter characters, and all of them "have faced government retaliation for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and many have been arrested, tried, and sentenced to fines or prison terms."
Moreover, the HRW feature added, "According to the Arab Social Media Report, GCC countries accounted 17.2 million Facebook users and 3.5 million Twitter users through the first quarter of 2014. By late 2015 Saudi Arabia alone maintained 2.4 million active Twitter users, representing over 40 percent of all Twitter users in the Middle East."
"Internet penetration and the growth of social networking tools since 2011 have created new opportunities for activists and dissidents in Arab Gulf states to correspond with each other and express their ideas," HRW went on to say. As an example, the report indicated, "Tens of thousands of Saudi citizens, for example, have participated in online campaigns, such as a call to free Samar Badawi, a woman jailed for "parental disobedience" in 2010 according to a judge's interpretation of Islamic law, and online advocacy campaigns encouraging Saudi women to drive in defiance of the government ban on women driving."
In addition, the report referred to the Bahraini case, stating, "Social media networks were a major factor in planning and organizing street protests in some GCC countries during the Arab uprisings of 2011. In Bahrain, social media networks were used to organize nearly four weeks of massive pro-democracy demonstrations, which ended in March 2011 when state security forces under the command of the ruling Al Khalifa family used disproportionate and in some cases lethal force to crackdown on the protest movement."
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