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Facebook’s role in Yemen’s uprising

Last week, Susannah Vila posted a fascinating interview at Movements.org with Yemeni based activist Atiaf Alwazir, who runs the blog Woman From Yemen, in which she offers some insight into how information about the protests is spreading throughout the country. Here is an excerpt:

 In many major cities there are “sit-in” sites that have turned into “mini cities” for the protesters. The areas have tents, vendors, and seminars. People are camped there and have been there for three months. So decisions to march are spread via the stage at the sit-in site, and mainly via SMS and Facebook.

Between cities, protesters are trying to coordinate using phone calls, Facebook, and SMS messages. For example deciding what to name a Friday (every Friday has a name) many groups chat to discuss it from different cities to try to unify the name nationwide. Sometimes one city decides and others follow.

Yes, only 2% of the population has internet access, but the majority of young activists find ways to get online. As an example, it’s now 1 AM and practically everyone I know is on Facebook. i’m part of at least 14 Yemeni groups, discussing the revolution, organizing, suggesting ideas. These groups all have around 1000 members – not many compared to the number of people in the street, but many of them are leaders and activists. There are different groups – one is called the group for coordination, where people can share ideas on how to run things and what to do next. One is for creating and finalizing the “youth demands” document (now that it’s finalized group is not as active). One is a women’s revolutionary group talking about women’s issues (the role of women in the revolution, and how to guarantee women’s rights post revolution), then others are groups associated with specific movements or youth coalitions discussing activities related to them at specific city squares.