A new generation of young people are using social media to raise awareness about the plight of Kurdish people. They are using tools of media that was not available a generation ago, and in doing so they are becoming patriots of Kurdistan. Two of the most effective tools of information on Kurdish activism are Twitter and Facebook. While on Twitter it is easier to spread information outside of friends and family circles, on Facebook the local efforts made to challenge suppression of Kurds is far more feasible.
Becoming a Kurdish activist
Not long ago, a friend of mine texted me, asking how she can be more involved in Kurdish-related issues and how she can help further the 'Kurdish cause'. Media outlets are increasingly becoming responsive to social demands, and this is why we need the voices of the masses to demand better coverage of Kurdistan. Currently there are two major campaigns by Kurdish activists (1) Media coverage for Kurdish political prisoners on Hunger strike within Turkey and (2) The e-petition campaign asking the United Kingdom government to formally recognise genocides against Kurdish people. I will use the first campaign to highlight how Kurdish activists are trying to raise awareness, and campaigning for the voices of those who are unheard in mainstream media outlets.
Using Twitter efficiently
Twitter is like a micro-blogging social network, where within time you can network widely. It claims to have 500+ million users. Journalists and media agencies use it widely. Take the following for example:
- BBC: World Have Your Say WHYS is a Global conversation on how people are responding to news as it unfolds, whether it is political or social. You can tweet your thoughts using #WHYS as a hashtag. Although so far they have not covered the Kurdish hunger strike, they are not blind to it either. Sometimes, tweeting at a news agency does not mean it will lead to an immediate response, but the editors keep it in mind nonetheless for future segments on Kurdish people.
- Al Jazeera: The Stream The stream is the strongest out of BBC and Guardian in utilising social outlets to compose a segment. They used tweets, Facebook posts and YouTube videos on their coverage of the hunger strike by Kurdish political prisoners, you can read more about that here. Their Twitter team tends to be responsive to demands of coverage, if you feel strongly about a Kurdish topic that is going unnoticed in mainstream outlets, simply send them a message on Twitter. The more people that demand coverage, the chances of it being covered increases.
- Guardian: Open News You can help the Guardian, and inevitably shape news by speaking to their editors and reporters online. You can look at every morning's scheduled articles here, and tweet the author your thoughts if it pertains to Kurdish people, or look for open slots where Kurds can be squeezed in.
It is easy to connect to journalists and editors online, but it takes dedication to consistently do that. The level of determination shown by activists leads to results, and the increased number of young Kurdish people who are using social networks are well versed in the importance of communicating properly.
Facebooking with a purpose
Facebook has over 1 billion users, this figure alone is a great indicator of its importance. There are hundreds of Kurdish groups on Facebook, some of which are private, others are by invitation only, or open to the public. There are 'activist' groups which help organise events, spread information, and give young activists better tools on how to campaign effectively. These are the groups that help plan events, and if you can't find a group that ticks the right boxes for you, start one!
Media coverage alone does not resolve an issue, but they tend to help bring world focus on it. While campaigning for any Kurdish cause, make sure you don't neglect the local resources available such as writing a letter to your local Member of Parliament, attending a locally hosted conference or protest. If there are no protests, conferences or activities within your Kurdish Community Centre, be the one to start it.
Follow Ruwayda Mustafah on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ruwaydamustafah