• On #ArabAprilFools, Middle East Tweets Hope And Despair

    Twitter users across the Arab world and its observers outside the region took advantage of Wednesday’s April Fools’ Day festivities to air their exasperation with the hashtag #ArabAprilFools.

    Between Arab states’ bombing campaign against Iranian-aligned rebels in Yemen, ongoing nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and Iran and a climate of pessimism over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the region abounds with stress and annoyance.

    So users turned the holiday, which in Western online news has become a time for blatantly satirical headlines, into a pressure valve for airing their discontent and their hope for the future.

    Many of the tweets expressed frustration with corrupt or hypocritical leaders in the region, including those who profess solidarity with the Palestinian people:

    Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Meshal donate their fortunes to the Palestinian cause. #ArabAprilFools

    — Jonathan Schanzer (@JSchanzer) April 1, 2015

    Arab leaders will actually help the Palestinians instead of just the Palestinian cause for self gain and increase popularity #ArabAprilFools

    — Jafar (@IraqiNotArab) April 1, 2015

    Palestinian president Abbas acknowledges vast corruption within PA, calls for independent investigation. #ArabAprilFools

    — Iyad El-Baghdadi (@iyad_elbaghdadi) April 1, 2015

    Others simply acknowledged the absurdity of Arab politics:

    Lebanon gets a President #ArabAprilFools

    — Anج (@Angieslyst) April 1, 2015

    Lebanon’s bitterly divided parliament was supposed to elect a president in April 2014, but no candidate could win the required two-thirds vote. The country has continued with an incomplete political system since then.

    Some tweets poked fun at the Islamic State terror group’s shadowy leader, turning him into a laughable comic book villain:

    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi resigns as head of the Islamic State to pursue his childhood dream of making it big on Broadway #ArabAprilFools

    — Hugh Naylor (@HughNaylor) April 1, 2015

    And some criticized the Egyptian government’s perceived heavy-handedness in the interest of stability:

    No more arrests of protesters. No more arrests of journos. #ArabAprilFools

    — Sarah Mansour (@Soor88) April 1, 2015

    Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, a peaceful secular protester killed by police gunfire in January, has become the latest sign of Egyptian police overreach. Authorities recently announced that eyewitnesses to her death will also face criminal charges. (RELATED: Egypt Fires Spokesman Who Said Dead Protester Was Too Thin To Survive Police Gunfire)

    A Libyan-American grumbled about the ongoing Saudi-led coalition of bombings in Yemen:

    #BREAKING: Everybody stopped launching airstrikes against everybody else in the Middle East. Just kidding. #ArabAprilFools

    — Hend (@LibyaLiberty) April 1, 2015

    (RELATED: Nearly 100 Children Caught In Yemen Cross Fire This Week)

    And as the bombs fell in Yemen with Pakistani support, one user suggested that Saudi Arabia could adjust its notoriously harsh policy toward South Asian migrant workers:

    In thanks to Pakistan for their help in the Yemen fight, Saudi declares Pakistani migrant workers ‘equal human beings’ #ArabAprilFools

    — Ali (@Khorosani) April 1, 2015

    Domestic servants and manual laborers from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and other countries receive minimum legal protection in Saudi Arabia, where some employers treat them as virtual slaves by taking away their passports and withholding wages.

    Not all tweets focused on political gloom in the region. Some were more lighthearted, poking fun at Arab customs and the Arabic language.

    The parents payed for the meal with friends at a restaurant without fighting
    #ArabAprilFools @BeautyArabian

    — جنان (@arabianjinan) April 1, 2015

    Arabs have started bronoucing their ‘p’s broberly #ArabAprilFools @BeautyArabian

    — Asmaaaa (@AsmaSabouni) April 1, 2015

    I left my grandma’s house hungry …
    #ArabAprilFools @BeautyArabian

    — Mohamed Nabulsi (@MohamedNabulsi1) April 1, 2015

    … As well as stereotypes about Arabs’ quarrelsomeness and punctuality:

    I respect your opinion. #ArabAprilFools

    — Ayat (@Ayspeare) April 1, 2015

    I’m early #ArabAprilFools

    — Christa Blackmon (@TheOdalisque) April 1, 2015

    When the hashtag’s popularity inevitably spread, it eventually attracted racist content against both Arabs and Jews, as well as a jab at American journalists. But as the region’s inhabitants face a bleak 2015, Twitter may prove to be the most fruitful platform for the Middle East’s future.

    Follow Ivan Plis on Twitter

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