Each week Syria Deeply monitors the online conversation in English and Arabic, pulling out the highlights in a feature called the Social Media Buzz.
Children have been used as fighters and firestarters during the Syrian conflict. Many parrot their parent’s chants, whether pro or anti regime, and occasionally they are asked to take up arms. This phenomenon has been condemned by both sides, but political exploitation of children continues to surface online.
In one, a child in Binnish, a small village in Idlib, makes stabbing gestures in reference to slaughtering Shiites and Alawites.
In the other, an Alawite child sings with the Syrian army’s fourth brigade about exterminating revolutionaries. It inspired a music video that has been seen by more than 70,000 people just three days after it was released on YouTube.
Playing on the most shocking line from the Binnish song “We Are Coming to Slaughter You,” which is an adaptation of an al-Qaida chant, the black humor of the song echoes and amplifies sectarian rhetoric.
The performers in the video (below) turn slaughter into dance, and the simple lyrics lump all sects in Syria (along with Sikhs and Hindus, for good measure) into the bloodbath. One commentator on YouTube, with a Hebrew username, joked that the Jews were left out.
The song also touches on cannibalism, which has become part of the discourse in Syria after Abu Sakar, a rebel from Homs, released an infamous video of himself eating the liver or lung of an allegedly Alawite soldier. The artists of this video one-up Abu Sakar, promising to “feast on Hindus” and “deep fry” a group of pious Sunni women from Damascus.
Reactions to the video have been mixed among both loyalists and regime opponents, with some attacking the artists for being insensitive. The song’s dark humor resembles the 2011 video “We Will Pack the Jails,” which parodied the Assad regime’s brutal response to peaceful protests, and depicted the loyalists as being eager to massacre their own families in order to perpetuate eternal Assad family rule.
Opposition to these morbid and aggressive songs is one of the last common points between Syrians on both sides of the conflict, especially among educated urban elites in Aleppo and Damascus.
Facebook has served many functions over the past two years, disseminating information and organizing nascent opposition groups, but one overlooked aspect of the social networking site is its use to intimidate rivals.
It was common for supporters of peaceful protests to be insulted by friends and family on open forums in the early days of the conflict. As the war continued, and rebels took control of territory, the threats became balanced and then shifted against regime supporters.
With rebels reportedly preparing an attack on the city of Idlib, one local activist posted a note (below) alerting an Assad loyalist and alleged murderer that it was time for revenge, and that the loyalist would be the first to die in Idlib.
This week, liberals in the opposition found new common ground with Assad loyalists on a serious issue: the popular military coup in Egypt. Tensions among opposition groups in Syria have long been heightened due to the prominent role that the Muslim Brotherhood played in the revolution, so when the Brotherhood’s Egyptian counterpart was sidelined, many supported the coup.
Assad loyalists – who, like all Syrians, were forced by their government to publicly pledge to “crush the Muslim Brotherhood gangs” on a daily basis at schools, military camps and universities – were elated with the fall of Morsi. (Facebook and Twitter reactions from all sides are compiled here).