Hashtagging Khader Adnan: A Global Protest on Twitter
By: Jalal Abukhater
Published Monday, February 20, 2012
Organizing a trending hashtag for Khader Adnan is just like organizing a large protest on the corner of the busiest and most crowded street in a city.
As you read this, Khader Adnan is very close to death. It is high time the Israeli state respond to calls by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Carter Center, and many other human rights organizations to release Adnan immediately.
As Adnan enters the 65th day of his hunger strike, activists and human rights defenders have joined this campaign. In addition, Amnesty International is calling for Israel to abolish the system of administrative detention.
Adnan is the victim of arbitrary detention. He is one of 309 Palestinians who are currently being held under Israeli administrative detention. Adnan, an administrative detainee, has not been charged, he has not been tried, and he does not know when the period of detention will end. Indefinite detention without a trial or charge is not permitted under International Law. It is considered a form of arbitrary detention which no country should be practicing.
Imagine if Adnan were an Iranian man on hunger strike in an Iranian jail. Would we have had to do this massive movement on Twitter to get the world’s attention? I don’t think so. The silence of the world community is deafening. The late awakening of the mainstream media is inexcusable.
While the mainstream media has failed to cover Adnan’s story, Twitter is at the forefront of the campaign to pressure the Israeli government to act. Twitter users have taken on the responsibility of filling the void created by the mainstream media.
At this moment, according to Topsy Twitter statistics, the hashtag #KhaderAdnan has been mentioned about 40,000 times on Twitter. It should be noted that this statistic excludes other related hashtags which would count in the thousands.
A hashtag is a special tool used in Twitter to mark certain tweets as part of one conversation. In order to enter a hashtag, one must add (#) before any keyword. When a hashtag is selected the user is directed to a page where they are able to read all Twitter updates using this specific hashtag. Whenever there is a big news story, a popular event, or even a revolution, people use a certain hashtag to contribute to that conversation. That is what Palestinian and other activists are doing now for Adnan.
For the past week, Twitter users have organized different hashtags in support of Adnan in their attempt to garner wider attention for his case. Users have successfully been able to have all the hashtags to trend globally for minutes or even an hour. Twitter users have posted using hashtags like #KhaderExists, #Dying2Live, #hungry4justice, #KhaderIsAlive, #Khader61days, #Respect4Khader, #Khader62 and #HungerStrike63days. The use of those hashtags was organized by a few activists who tell other people via private messages to start using the hashtag at a certain time. So, according to Twitter algorithms, the hashtag would be considered a breaking story and would trend globally immediately. Hundreds, if not thousands have joined to tweet under each hashtag causing it to become listed as a globally trending topic on Twitter, which would eventually get people who have never heard of Adnan to hear about him for the first time.
Organizing a trending hashtag for Adnan is just like organizing a large protest on the corner of the busiest and most crowded street in the city. Getting thousands of people to tweet about Adnan isn’t something easy, but Adnan’s non-violent struggle for his dignity has motivated thousands around the globe to do whatever they can to save this man’s life. Twitter users are currently Adnan’s strongest voice to the world.
In a new update to Twitter.com, there is now a section named “Discover” where Twitter users can read about the top 10 most popular stories from around the globe. Each time Adnan’s name trends, a story about him would remain in the “Discover” section’s top 10 stories for over 6 hours after it trends. This guarantees that more and more people will learn about Adnan via the social media tool Twitter, at a time the main stream media fails to report.
“Khader is the spark that we all needed in order to remember our common goal,” said Twitter user @sshusma who was one of organizers for some of the trending hashtags. She continued saying: “Khader is slowly dying before our eyes, we are watching as it happens and it feels grotesque that I sit in my home with the comfort of my computer while all i can do is tweet about it. On one hand i feel like i have to do what i can to help bring attention to him, on the other hand i feel guilty that this is what i do.”
As another part of the campaign to call on the media outlets to shed light on Adnan’s case, Twitter users started using #CoverKhader and #WaitingForKristof hashtags a few days ago to call on more media outlets to cover Adnan’s hunger strike. The second hashtag was targeted specifically at The New York Times’ correspondent Nicholas Kristof who published a piece in 2010 titled “Waiting for Gandhi”. Nicholas Kristof is known for his personalized stories where he narrates the struggle of individuals who fight for justice and dignity. But, in his article, “Waiting for Gandhi,” Kristof did not mention that many Palestinians were committed to non-violent struggle, such as those who were part of the first intifada. Kristof has not addressed Adnan and his hunger strike yet.
The famous Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands MP died on 5 May 1981, after 66 days on hunger strike in a British prison. Bobby Sands and 9 other hunger strikers’ deaths in British prisons led to the British government being humiliated. This is generally considered the turning point in the Anglo-Irish conflict towards stability and independence. So far, two previous Irish hunger striker veterans, a brother of a dead Irish hunger striker, and Bobby Sands’ spokesman and close friend, have voiced their complete support for Adnan’s case. Their video messages have gone viral on social media sites such as Twitter. Those videos have also been listed for a few times in Twitter’s “Discover” section.
Twitter had a very big role in calling on the world’s conscience to act for Adnan. Adnan’s wife is pregnant and he has two young daughters waiting for him at home. He doesn’t want to die, but Adnan is willing to risk his life in order to fight for dignity, justice, and freedom.
Jalal Abukhater is a Jerusalem-based blogger.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.