Web 2.0: Where is Miriam?

While the people’s revolution is still unfolding in Libya, web 2.0 is still playing a role in more ways than one...here is a story of love and intrigue...when Omar Shibliy Mahmoudi exchanged romantic endearments on a Muslim dating site called Mawada, it wasn't just in the name of love; it was for the love of liberty. Mahmoudi wanted to avoid being discovered by Libya’s secret police that monitors social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and instead cleverly used the Middle East’s equivalent of Match.com to send coded love letters to help rally the revolution. Mahmoudi the leader of the Ekhtalef (which means Difference) Movement, used to be a Libyan businessman who is now an opposition leader. He never used to be politically active, yet as he watched the domino taking place across the region through web 2.0 he knew he wanted to act.

Mahmoudi says it was "for the freedom, not for the marriage" and so, he created a Mawada profile called, ‘Where Is Miriam?’, and pretended to be on the hunt for a wife. This conservative web 2.0 site doesn't allow men to communicate with other men, so the other revolutionaries had to also pose as women to be able to communicate with each other. They assumed sweet romantic profile names like ‘Melody of Torture’, ‘Sweet Butterfly’ and ‘Girl of the Desert’ and to complete their profiles these revolutionaries had to answer the site's standard profile questions, such as, "How much of your face do you cover?" and "Would a shared marriage be acceptable?"

While using web 2.0 to stage their revolution these ‘women’ looking for love, used poetry spiked with activist references to assess support and make initial contact. Then they would have in-depth follow-up conversations using texts and Yahoo Messenger. The phrase, "May your day be full of Jasmine," is a coded reference to what's been called the Jasmine Revolution sweeping the region and if the undercover ‘lovers’ wrote ‘I want love’, it actually meant ‘I want liberty’.

Their web 2.0 codes were clever and simple and they communicated in signs to reflect the number of comrades supporting the revolution, so the five Ls in the phrase "I LLLLLove you" meant they had five people with them and if a supporter wrote, “My lady, how I want to climb this wall of silence. I want to tell the story of a million hurts. ... But I am lost in a labyrinth. … Maybe we can meet on Yahoo messenger", actually meant let us chat on Yahoo Messenger so we can avoid raising the monitor’s suspicions. To quote Shakespeare, Mahmoudi’s work was a real ‘labour of love’.

Photo Credit: Ranoush