From her childhood bedroom in the Chicago suburbs, Ala'a, an American teenage girl, uses social media to coordinate the revolution in Syria.
Ala’a Basatneh is a human rights advocate and activist. When a group of children wrote “We want to topple the regime” on their school wall, they were tortured and killed by the Syrian police. Ala’a decided she needed to do something to help protestors on the ground. She says, “I could not stay inactive from thousands of miles away from the country I was born in. I decided to reach out to activists over social media outlets and told them, I’m willing to help you with everything and anything I can do to maintain momentum and gain international attention.” She started to organize protests in Syria by using her social network and she translated banners into English so people from all over the world could see the plight of the Syrian people.
[NOTE: Following the copyrights, the video above has been removed on November 4].
Ala’a hoped the protests would result in a peaceful transition of power in a matter of weeks but demonstrations turned into a bloody war that would last for years. Social media would be crucial to gain the world’s attention and show people what was going on in Syria. It became the way Ala’a and her friends communicated with Syrian activists and citizen journalists on the ground. Ala’a says, “Social media is the reason why the rest of the world knows about the war crimes the Assad regime committed in Hama, Homs, Aleppo, and throughout Syrian cities.”
Millions of people lost their lives in the Syrian War and millions had to leave their homes and become refugees. Sadly Ala’a lost her dearest friends, citizen journalist Omar Tayara and filmmaker Bassel Shehadeh. They were both brave young men with dreams of a free Syria. Bassel was killed while filming the regime’s massacre of its own people. The death of her friends inspires Ala’a to keep fighting. She says, “I owe my existence to people like Omar and Bassel who fought till their last breaths. I continue to advocate for their cause, and will never stop for their sake and the thousands of people who were murdered like them in protests.”
Ala’a thinks that the current situation in Syria is not promising but the Syrian protestors will not stop. She criticizes the attitude of international community. “It seems like they forgot about the millions of protestors who fled to the streets asking for human dignity and a peaceful transition of government in March of 2011.”
Ala’a recently graduated with a Masters in Global Affairs and Security. She says there are still weekly protests in Syria demanding the end of the Assad regime but it’s getting harder and harder to sustain the world’s attention. But she will continue her struggle, using the power of social media to fight for a free Syria.