Egypt/Syria: The digital divide | Middle East/North Africa | DW | 28.06.2011
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Middle East/North Africa

Egypt/Syria: The digital divide

In May 2011, DW Akademie invited bloggers from Germany and the Middle East to take part in the Young Media Summit in Cairo. Razan Ghazzawi, a female blogger from Syria, spoke with Jens-Uwe Rahe.

Razan Ghazzawi

Razan Ghazzawi

Several weeks ago you moved from Damascus to Beirut. You're now planning to stay in Cairo for the time being. Why is life in Syria so difficult for you?
It revolves around my work as a blogger. In Syria I can't be as active and productive as I’d like to be. In Damascus I live at home, and my parents aren't politically active, so I would have to move in with friends. In Syria, the Internet can be blocked at any time. I'm also afraid of being arrested. Two people I know were recently arrested, and before being released they were shown a list. My name was on that list. So far, I've not been directly threatened, but I sense something could happen if I went back.

Why did the Syrian government decide to give clearance to Facebook?
Some people think the government really underestimated the effect this would have, that it never thought so many people would take to the streets. Others say the government is using Facebook to monitor online activists in the country, to find out who they are and where they live in order to arrest them.

2011.04 DW-AKADEMIE YMS 2011

At DW Akademie's Young Media Summit you spoke about the digital divide between those who use the Internet and those who cannot access it. Do you see this digital divide inside the Syrian protest movement?
I have the impression that most of the demonstrators are not on Facebook. We have no photos of those who are arrested, of those who sacrifice their lives. There are between 50 and 70 campaigns on Facebook, and the activists belong to the educated middle class. We know each other. But we can't identify those 11,000 people who have been arrested. They live on city outskirts, in small towns and in rural areas. They aren't part of the middle class or intellectual community. That's why I say a digital divide does exist within the Syrian protest movement.

What did you gain from the Young Media Summit?
I found it interesting that the Summit took place in Egypt - here where the army played a central role in the revolution. I ask myself what this could mean for Syria. Personally, this was the first time I'd attended a conference like this and I felt very at ease. We bloggers got to know each other better. I'm actually a slightly stubborn person, but at the Summit I enjoyed listening to the others and taking their views into consideration.

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