Will the hashtag campaign for Iraqi Christians beat the odds? Even with the noblest of intentions, social-media campaigns often fail to produce any real-world consequences. Such was the unfortunate fate of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Although it became so popular that even first lady Michelle Obama “did her part” and tweeted a picture of herself holding a sign that read “#BringBackOurGirls,” the hashtag failed to inspire anyone, most importantly Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, to mount a concerted effort to recover the missing schoolchildren. Four months after the hashtag went viral, most of the young girls originally kidnapped remain missing.
However, once in a while, social media causes actual change. The #WeAreN campaign is one of those success stories.
National Review Online previously reported on the #WeAreN movement, which involved many people on Facebook and Twitter changing their profile pictures to the Arabic letter ن, which the terrorist group the Islamic State has painted on the homes and businesses owned by Christians in Mosul, Iraq. Christians were then ordered to leave the city or stay and convert, pay a hefty tax, or risk death. The 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet (pronounced “nūn”) is equivalent to the Roman letter N and stands for “Nasara,” or “Nazarene,” a pejorative Arabic word for Christians.
In an inspiring display of Christian and human solidarity, social-media users turned the ن from a symbol of shame, as the Islamic State intended it to be, to a rallying cry. The #WeAreN hashtag went viral and is still going strong.
Because of the mainstream media’s original disinterest in the jihadist genocide of Christians, alternative media, including social media as well as Christian and conservative publications, are bringing the terrible situation to the forefront.
Fueled in part by the #WeAreN campaign, protests in favor of Christians forced to flee their homes in Mosul and other parts of Iraq now under the control of the Sunni fanatic are springing up across the United States and all over the world. Activists demanding Western leaders to put an end to the genocide have demonstrated in Paris, Copenhagen, Seattle, Detroit, New York, Modesto, Calif., and elsewhere. In many of the demonstrations, protestors wore shirts emblazoned with the ن. The protest in Sydney, Australia, boasted more than 6,000 people.
— Totally Hussein (@TotallyHussein) August 7, 2014
— Ur ܐܘ̇ܪ ܓܒܪܐܝ݂ܠ ♏✌ (@LindyLoo13) August 7, 2014
Much like the Arab Spring, the protests were almost solely organized through social media, using the hashtag #WeAreN. “This is a modern-day holocaust. . . . It cannot be ignored.” Suzan Younan, a protest organizer in Modesto, told the Modesto Bee.
Some leaders, prompted by the rallies, are offering the displaced Christians asylum. German chancellor Angela Merkel has informed the German press that she is willing to allow Germany to accept Christian refugees. #WeAreN protests have taken place in the German cities of Hamburg and Gutersloh. France has also offered asylum to Iraqi Christians, and protests have happened in Paris.
Although it is easy to dismiss social media as a distraction that is given too much importance, the #WeAreN campaign is a testament to the power that social media has and to the good it can do. It is possible that without social media a genocide could have been overlooked.
— Christine Sisto is an editorial associate at National Review Online.