The Rise of Kurdish Social Media Use

The Rise of Kurdish Social Media Use. Medya Rashid   

     Every Kurd undoubtedly has that friend (or many, actually!) on Instagram with a bio that states: ‘Kurd and Proud’, as if being a Kurd has a negative connotation in which admitting he is proud of is an act of patriotism in itself. Kurds, however, have been making a name for themselves, and it is not just with bios.

        The Egyptian Revolution started with a Facebook page. One use of social media, even if one is not aware of the outcome, is that it can light the spark of a revolution, and in the Kurds’ case, perhaps even Kurdish identity. Not only do we get to hear the latest news faster than having to scroll through the television screen to find the right channel, but we also get to witness the daily lives and ideas of fellow Kurds.

        While television stations focus more on news topics of politics, economy, and (occasionally) religion, social media sheds light on the other, more cultural aspect of Kurdistan. Kurds are getting more recognition thanks to the rise of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, as well as independent Kurdish blogs, all dedicated to giving Kurds the independent name they should have been given a long time ago.

        A big progression Kurds are taking through social media is activism. With sites like Twitter acting as public forums to communicate news and ideas, many other people are starting to hear the Kurds. On January 21st, 2012, Kurdish internet activists came together for the very first time in London after organizing a Kurdish Social Media Gathering using the famous twitter hashtag #TwitterKurds.

        The mayor of Sur Municipality in Amed, Abdullah Demirbas, gave a speech to the event but was not actually present there, saying that “for our culture, identity, beliefs, and rights we must come together, we must use social media” and “we will make our union and assistance much stronger using social media.”

        Others take a more humorous approach to introducing this internationally unfamiliar ethnic group to the digital world. Facebook pages like Kurdish Vines give an insight of everyday Kurdish customs and lives, with comedic snippets of examples like how different Kurdish parents can be when compared to other nationalities. This has even lead to giving off a certain Kurdish stereotype.

        While some people view these forms of social media use as negative and not giving a good impression of Kurds, others go in defense to say that these videos are merely made to entertain and to slightly exaggerate what they would see in a typical Kurdish household. Shlovan Saleh, a popular face on Kurdish Vines, says that these videos add a sense of humor to the truth but “it’s nothing to take seriously.  It’s comedy, just to make people laugh.”

        Although many of these videos are in the Kurdish language, they have attracted beyond just the expected borders. “People message me all the time telling me they watch my videos even if they don’t really understand it,” says Shlovan. “They say that they love it and got to know more about the Kurdish culture through the videos.”

        The social media interaction between Kurds living abroad and those living in their own country is mutually beneficial. Kurds outside are able to learn more about the traditional ways of their homeland and are more informed about Kurdish issues. Kurds back home can engage in discussions with other Kurds and find themselves more accepting of what the West would deem open-minded. Social media has come with the cost of westernization, and though in the previous years a westernized Kurdistan seemed threatening, this kind is not necessarily bad.

        The majority of Kurds use social media websites for their own personal use and not for any form of activism. And very recently, many Kurds have become popular due to their western-influenced pages/profiles. The younger generations of Kurds are more confident in pursuing their hobbies and profession by presenting them through social media.

        There are now rather famous Instagram profiles by Kurds who aim to inspire others as well as gain international fame, whether it is through photography, fitness, or even fashion. Sazan Barzani, a fashion blogger based in America, is one of the many that inspires both Kurds and Non-Kurds with her blog.

        In this age of information, social media can be the most potent weapon available, regardless of the purpose it is being used for. This is the platform where ideas clash, causes begin, and knowledge spreads. The Kurds are certainly one of many groups to utilize social media in such a way. The online revolution of Kurds has only just begun.

By: Medya Z. Rashid
From Sulaimani, Iraq