WhatsApp in the Arab world: an essential but controversial tool

  • Sunday 27, October 2019 08:42 AM
  • WhatsApp in the Arab world: an essential but controversial tool
Sharjah 24 – AFP: From organising mass protests in Baghdad and Beirut to coordinating rescue missions amid grinding conflict in Syria, WhatsApp has become an indispensable connector for millions across the Arab world.
In Lebanon, where telecommunications are highly regulated and expensive, citizens have increasingly relied on WhatsApp for free calls.

When the government announced a tax on these calls on October 17, it sparked protests that grew to an unprecedented scale.

After more than a week of demonstrations, protesters have rejected the term "WhatsApp revolution", saying the phrase diminishes what is a demand for drastic political change.

But they acknowledge the technology is instrumental in mobilising rallies that have attracted hundreds of thousands from a population of about six million.

Over the border in Syria, Whatsapp can be the difference between life and death.

Mustafa al-Hajj Younes, who heads a group of first responders in Idlib province, said civilians use group chats to appeal for help from rescue teams.

"We coordinate on these groups whenever there is a need for our services," he said.

WhatsApp is especially useful because of weak telecommunications infrastructure in areas under opposition control. "People can only contact us through WhatsApp or cell phones," he said.