The revolts in Libya, the most recent in a series of uprisings that has swept the Middle East, began days after former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak resigned on February 11th. Inspired by the successful movements in Tunisia and Egypt, Libyans have taken to the streets to call for Muammar al-Qaddafi, the leader since 1969, to step down. Protesters have been met with violent retaliation from government forces, with estimates of the death toll around 2000.
As was the case in Egypt, the internet played an important role in some of the organizing of protests. In Libya, however, this happened in a unique way. In an effort to bypass the scrutiny of security forces, former businessman and opposition leader Shibliy Mahmoudi, used Mawada–a Muslim marriage site–to rally the revolution.
Mahmoudi is the leader of the Ekhtalef (“difference” in Arabic) Movement. He used the so-called “Match.com of the Middle East” to organize, setting up the profile “Where is Miriam?” as a cover for his revolutionary activity. Others involved in the opposition would then set up their own profiles with names like “Girl of the Desert” and “Melody of Torture.” They would communicate through poetry that on the surface would appear to be about love but in fact carried revolutionary references.
They also had a code to continue communication through text messaging and Yahoo Messenger. Mahmoudi’s goal was to get 50,000 supporters through his Mawada profile. By February 19th, when the Libyan regime shut down the internet, he had 171,323 supporters.
Like in Egypt, despite shutdowns of the Internet, Libyans are finding ways around the outage. They have been crossing the border to neighboring countries Tunisia and Egypt to post videos on YouTube and send information. The Qaddafi regime is losing its grip on Libya and, through the Internet, Libyans have begun a revolution, documenting the fall of a regime.
Have you been following the Libyan revolts? How much of a role did social media outlets play in the success of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt? Do you think the revolts in Libya will be successful? Please share your thoughts below.