Iraq News

Iraq's 'electronic army' confronts ISIL online

By Khalid al-Taie

Iraqi editors work in a newsroom. Many journalists and activists are confronting and refuting 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' propaganda online. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Media House]

Iraqi editors work in a newsroom. Many journalists and activists are confronting and refuting 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' propaganda online. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Media House]

As the battle to retake Fallujah from the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) intensifies, Iraqi activists are taking to social media to express their support for the liberating forces.

Social networking sites serve as another platform in the battle against ISIL, with Iraqis of all backgrounds expressing support for the military efforts, Iraqi Journalists Rights Defence Association head Ibrahim al-Sarraji told Mawtani.

This has provided "significant popular support" to the security forces, he said, and has sent a message around the world that all components of Iraqi society are standing in support of the army and popular mobilisation forces.

"Today we have a large electronic Iraqi army to confront ISIL, which includes all members of society," al-Sarraji said.

"Everybody agrees on one goal, and that is solidarity with the security forces," he added. "If you do not have an opportunity to participate in the battle in the field, do not spare any show of support for your army on your Internet page, if only with a single word."

Reaching a global audience

Hashtags have enabled Iraqi bloggers and activists to interact with citizens of other countries and show them the truth of the situation, al-Sarraji said.

Popular hashtags currently in circulation in Arabic include #Fallujah_being_liberated, #Fallujah_liberators_not_agressors, #Storming_Fallujah, #You_are_our_pride, #We_are_all_with_you.

"There are online accounts supportive of terrorism posting fake photos and videos and comments aimed at hurting our forces and distorting facts to try to confuse people and present this battle as if it was against a certain part of society and not against ISIL," he said.

"Hashtags have allowed us to correct some stereotypes and change many points of view through conversations and discussions supported by real pictures and videos and with human stories from the battlefield," he added. "I believe we are succeeding in this regard."

"Our fight with ISIL is a global battle, and the people and governments of the world are required to stand with us, since terrorism does not represent one group of people or one religion, nor is it held back by any border," he said.

Activist and journalist Walid al-Taie told Mawtani he posted a number of hashtags on his newspaper's Facebook and Twitter pages calling for people to "support the Iraqi army and popular mobilisation forces and contribute to raising fighters' morale".

The hashtags received great feedback from citizens expressing their love and devotion to their country and to preserving its territorial integrity, al-Taie said.

Many of these posts indicate the battle with ISIL is now an existential one, and that victory must be achieved, he added.

"We have started to follow our forces' victories in Fallujah and the other battlefronts and report the events of the fighting on our Internet page minute-by-minute and in text, sound and pictures," he said.

'The same responsibilities as soldiers'

Many activists, bloggers and Internet users have taken it upon themselves to block all of ISIL's attempts to exploit social media by spreading mistruths and rumours aimed at influencing public opinion and distorting facts, al-Taie said.

"We bear the same responsibilities as those of soldiers in battle with no room for failure in fulfilling our duty," he said. "Our country needs all of us to firmly resist the efforts of ISIL and those supporting it who are trying to distort the truth."

Blogger and activist Madi al-Husseini, who heads al-Qithara al-Thahabiya organisation for journalism and media, told Mawtani he has posted several hashtags and articles online focusing on the battle against ISIL.

"In these posts we have addressed the developments in the war and the current fighting to eliminate the terrorists in Fallujah, with all the related stories and heroics registered by our soldiers in confronting the enemy and rescuing trapped local civilians," he said.

"With the available media tools, I have tried to present a full picture to many Internet users inside and outside the country and tackle ISIL's propaganda and attempts to deliberately attack our security forces' reputation and efforts," he added.

Al-Qithara al-Thahabiya organises programmes and seminars where young people discuss ways to combat ISIL's ideology and propaganda, he said, stressing the importance of "employing all means of media and public education to contribute to the war on terrorism".

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