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Syria: Facebook Banned

Syria's netizens have been given another slap on the face with the banning of social networking site Facebook. With Blogger already blocked, the country's bloggers are fuming and have a lot to say about the latest development.

From Damascus, Golaniya sets the mood:

“Facebook is blocked in Syria, would I sound naïve if I said I didn’t see it coming? Why should I? How are the Syrians facebooking? Launching opposition campaigns? What's Facebook in Syria anyway? Active civil society? Syrian groups calling to overthrow the Syria regime? What's so dangerous about Syrian facebookers that they shouldn't be using it anymore? Or perhaps because the site is American so it should be blocked? Or maybe the Syrian officials have no idea what's Facebook except that it's an American and it's getting popular in Syria? All the above?

My theory? I think the Syrian officials don’t have a thorough idea how Syrians are facebooking, I think they did not block Facebook–the-site, but the unfamiliar reaction to this site, the unknown consequences of this reaction that might be very much, uncontrolled!” she rants.

Golaniya further explains the backlash the ban created – with more Syrian groups popping up on Facebook as a direct result of the censorship and how netizens are finding a voice despite the repression.

“Who lives in Syria knows that it's the country of “nothing's going on” except to hang out in old Damascus’ cafes, but recently there has been a cultural awakening; people are starting to organize their interests in concerts, galleries, conferences, plays, screenings…etc. and Facebook is facilitating the process which is very hard to do in an inactive militarily controlled society. There are no cultural institutions in Syria, no private independent NGOs, no civic institutions, who represent the populations except the government? Syrian Facebookers are trying now to represent themselves. Those who cannot be activists in a “real” Syria can be one in a virtual Syria,” she writes.

Her final scream for opening up the world wide web is loud and clear:

“We want Syria uncensored!” she wails.

Writing in Arabic, Alloush blog urges the authorities to reconsider the ban. He writes:

فيس بوك في سوريا، ليس مشهور أبداً، بل إن نسبة انتشاره ضئيلة جداً، حتى أن أكثر العارفين بالانترنت في سوريا لم يفهموا ما هو هذا الموقع، إلا أن تناول الأخبار لشهرة الموقع، جعلت نسبة نموه في سوريا ترتفع إلى حد كبير، وسرعان ما أصبح من الطبيعي أن تشاهد كم هائل من السوريين ينشئون المجموعات التي تدعم سوريا، وتروج لها، بالاضافة إلى محاولة الطلب لانشاء شبكات فرعية لشبكة سوريا على فيس بوك، السودان يمتلك شبكات فرعية أكثر من سوريا.
“Facebook in Syria isn't that famous. Its distribution is very limited to the extent that many of those familiar with the Internet don't understand what the site is about. However, after news spread about its fame, it started growing in popularity in Syria and it then became natural to see large numbers of Syrians starting groups which support Syria and promote it, in addition to attempts to set up smaller networks for the Syria network on Facebook. Sudan has more smaller networks than Syria.
حسناً يبدو أن لدينا هنا أضخم موقع مدونات تم حجبه، أضخم موقع فيديو تم حجبه، والآن أضخم موقع اجتماعي تم حجبه وكمية كبيرة من المواقع تم حجبها، الشخص عندما يحلل الموضوع ويبحث عن اسباب الحجب قد يستنتج استنتاجات لا منطقية أو مضحكة، فمثلاً صديقي اليوم قال لي، يبدو أنه القائم على الحجب أخطأ بالقائمة، فبدل رفع الحجب، قام بالحج، وقريباً ربما سيحجب غوغل، وبذلك ستكون الانترنت في سوريا، انترانت (شبكة داخلية فقط) يمكنك تصفح موقع شركات البوظة والعلكة، فهي ممتعة حقاً.

الحجب عن هذه المواقع الغنية بالمعلومات تسبب الضرر للشعب السوري، فاولاً فهي ضربة للترويج المجاني لسوريا، وثانياً، هي حرمان للشعب السوري من خدمات متاحة للعالم أجمع، أتمنى من القائمين عن الحجب أن يعيدوا التفكير ولو قليلاً في جدوى سياسة الحجب.

It seems that we have the largest number of blogs that are blocked, and now the largest social gathering is being censored as well as a huge number of sites. When a person starts analysing the reasons for the bans, he will end up with illogical and funny conclusions. For instance, my friend today informed me that the person who blocked the site may have done a mistake and instead of lifting the ban had imposed it. Soon, Google may be banned and with that the Internet in Syria will be an internal system only, which will enable you to surf through the websites of the companies which make ice cream and chewing gum. That would really be interesting. Blocking access to such sites which are rich in information causes damage to Syrians. First of all, they are a slap against the free promotion of Syria and secondly, they deny Syrians access to services which are available for people around the world. I hope those responsible for this policy would reconsider their censorship policies.

Another Syrian blogger Redman has come up with a better solution to thwart censorship. He writes:

لا أعرف هل ينتهي الكلام عند هذا الحد أم ما زال لهذا الكلام فائدة ، شركات الإنترنت كل يوم تتحفنا بعروض جديدة للإنترنت و سعر الإنترنت اصبح ارخص من سعر البطاطا ( كيلو البطاطا بـ 45 ليرة ) ،(…) لكن لدي اقتراح جميل لماذا لا نحجب الإنترنت و نطلب من أصحاب المواقع تقديم طلبات للإدراج في قائمة السماح :) ، و المشكلة أننا في سوريا لا نعرف من يقوم بحجب المواقع فالسيد وزير الإتصالات نفى خلال المحكمة الأسبوع الماضي علاقة وزارة الإتصالات بالحجب و انه لم يصدر أي قرار حجب .
I don't know if the discussion will end with this or whether anything we say would be of any benefit. Internet companies come up with new offers everyday and the cost of Internet access is cheaper than the price of potatoes (a kilos of potatoes costs 45 Liras) … but I have a suggestion: why don't we ban the Internet and ask the site owners to apply (with officials) to be allowed to have sites. The problem in Syria is that we don't know who orders the blocking of sites. The Minister of Transportation denied in a trial last week that his ministry was involved in the bans and said that he has not ordered any closures of sites.

Mohammed also uses humour to express his infuriation with the ban in this post. He notes:

يعني والله خجلان من وين بدي بلش، بس أكيد أكيد حجب فيس بوك في سوريا ما حدا من مستخدمي الإنترنت في سوريا استغربوا يعني شي متوقع حتى أنا استغربت ليش لهلأ ما حجبوه، يعني موقع ابيبدأ بي دبليو و ابينتهي بدوت كوم و ما يحجب في سوريا فعلا شي غريب بس الحمد لله إنو حجبوه حتى ما انتم مستغربين !
By Allah, I am embarrassed and don't know where to start but I am certain that none of the Internet users in Syria were surprised when Facebook was blocked. I was surprised that it wasn't. Just imagine having a site which starts with w and ends with .com and not having it banned in Syria! I am thankful to God that it has been banned, so that we don't continue to live surprised.

He also has a suggestion for netizens, who are developing websites. He says:

وانا عندي اقتراح لأصحاب المواقع في سوريا إنهم لما بدهم يعملوا موقع ما يحطوا فيو شي لأن هيك هيك حينحجب فبلا ما يعزبوا حالهم ، تعب على الفاضي.
بعدين بصراحة يا شباب و ايدي على راسكم شو عاد الو طعمة الإنترنت عنا؟ مواقع و محجوبة و سرعة بتجيب السكتة القلبية فلشو محتاجين الإنترنت؟ من شان الإيميلات و البريد؟ اي محلولة منرجع منستخدم الحمام الزاجل على الأقل مضمون و أسرع من الإنترنت عنا !
I also have a suggestion to site developers in Syria. They should not populate their sites with anything because either way, it will be blocked and they would just be exhausting themselves for nothing. And then seriously guys, what does the Internet mean for us? Sites are blocked and the net is so slow it brings a heart attack. Why do you need the Internet? For emails? I have a solution for you. We can go back to using carrier pigeons. At the least, they are more guaranteed and faster than the Internet we have.

47 comments

  • Hey Amira, good work, nice blogging and good way in view all ideas in ur way.

    Many thanks for choosing my topic and translating it.

    Keep hard !

    Regards
    Mohammad

  • […] Banned at Global Voices Advocacy على و أخيراً، حجب موقع FaceBook في سورياGlobal Voices Online » Syria: Facebook Banned على و أخيراً، حجب موقع FaceBook في سورياأميرة على و […]

  • Misha

    I can’t believe it!!!! even in this they are trying to shut us down, what should syrian guys and girls do if the goverment is involving even in such website which is unharmfull for them at all!!!! im really chucked for this and now i do know y youth are immegrating from Syria, why should we stay if we are banned even from FACEBOOK!!!! what the hell is goin on here n Syria????? i met relatives for me from whole over the world i havent known about them and met childhood and teenagerhood friends on facebook its a great way for communication and networking but i guess when u live in syria your only activity should be to go to stupid cafes and have nargile…… but we shouldnt stay quite about that otherwise in the near future we wont have any rights in syria at all.

  • […] Syria: Facebook Banned – GlobalVoicesOnline.Org […]

  • Kevin

    i was the first to post the “tip” on committee to protect bloggers” i was skeptical at first and i didnt wanna get myself in trouble so i posted it anonymously, even though im a syria-american citizen but i know exactly how these people think. they will spend million of syrian pounds to hire solutions which makes them trace whoever posting or blogging comments on these social websites.

    one of my theories, is that syrian facebookers took too much liberty and started forming all kinds of groups, from political groups to anti-government hating groups.

    and my other one, is that simply syria followed the footsteps and regime that Iran is taking, and ofcourse wel all know that Iran was the first to ban youtube and facebook. this is redicioules but fortuntly for some of us we have the option to leave anytime back to a more social, and uncomplexed society.

  • […] The Syrian government, the same group of folks that regularly assassinate Lebanese politicians and journalists that criticize them, has decided in their infinite wisdom to ban Facebook. […]

  • sally

    I’m an expat here in Syria, i was only using it to keep in touch with family and friends.

  • Nour

    well I didn’t see this coming, I didn’t expect the banning !! yep I was so naive that I thought the mentality of our government had changed..

    obviously I was so wrong, anyway with these conditions.. seems I’ll be leaving sooner than I expect !!

  • رائع جدا مدهش ان الحجب بسوريا جيد جدا بحيث قررت ان لا افتح انترنت بسوريا بعد الآن لانه لا فائدة من ذلك!
    والمدهش اكثر ان موقعي لا يزال منطلق!! من دون حجب :)
    ولكن انا اكيد بعد هذه الرسالة سيتم حجبه بلا منازع

    GV Translation: Excellent! It is great that the ban in Syria is this great that I have decided not to open an Internet line in Syria because it would be useless! What is more surprising is that my site is still open :) but I am sure that after this message it too will be banned.

  • Ok this came as a super shock to me cos just yesterday i was wondering whats up with some friends of mine in syria that showed no activity and now i know why. This sucks, they shouldn’t ban FB, there is no reason to, its not like they formed some group to overthrow the government. The whole country was happy to see the government opening up and allowing new technologies into the country. And now this is a step back.

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