Lali Sandiumenge. The construction of a new Mediterranean Sea: women, youngsters and new forms of participation

Notes from the The construction of a new Mediterranean Sea: women, youngsters and new forms of participation seminar, organized by the Fundació CatDem, in Barcelona, Spain, on December 12th, 2014.

Lali Sandiumenge.
The construction of a new Mediterranean Sea: women, youngsters and new forms of participation

Asmaa Mahfouz calls on January 18, 2011, all Egyptians to go down to Tahrir Square on January 25.

Rima DAli protests before the Syrian Parliament on April 2012:

Women had always been active on networks and offline politics, but the events of the Arab Spring boosted it to higher grounds.

Digital activism in the Arab world begins with forums, then blogs and, at last, social networking sites. First activists in the Arab world come with a technological background. They come from both secular and religious organizations. Blogging or activism in social networking site always comes from offline activism. The blogosphere helped in levelling the ground of activism in gender terms: in the blogosphere there is no difference between male and female bloggers. Blogs were used to capture media attention and, from there, to enter politics and the political agenda.

Kolena Layla — we all are Layla — was a campaign that was issued in 2006 to raise awareness on women rights inequality.

Arab techies was a group that worked as a regional network and that first met offline in 2008. The goal of Arab techies was to foster the use of technology, especially for activism and awareness raising on human rights. Arab techies also fought censorship, which was tight especially in what concerns the use of the Internet.

HarassMap is an initiative born in 2010 to raise awareness and report on sexual harassment. Similarly, OpAntiSH (operation anti-sexual harassment) created in December 2012.

At the end of 2007, social networking sites — namely Facebook and Twitter — begin to gain momentum for (online) activism as their usage expands among the population.

Despite the rapid growth, at the outbreak of the Arab Spring in early 2011 both Facebook and Twitter still had very low adoption levels, and with important gender imbalances.

[Lali describes here more than a dozen most interesting initiatives led by women in the Arab World to fight for their rights and with a special use of ICTs and social networking sites.]


Q: These examples are very active, but are they majority or minority? Do they have a major/broad impact? Lali Sandiumenge: there especially is a qualitative impact in the sense that the Internet enables a much much more plural set of voices that now can have their voices heard. And not only heard, but very difficult to stop, both internally and externally. On the other hand, it is not only about diffusion and awareness raising, but organization: activists not any more need to remain clandestine, as they can meet online without worrying for their physical security. This has a secondary effect on disclosure of who is an activist and where: the Internet enables knowing who is fighting in what field.

Àngel Colom: Internet, in several parts of the Arab world, is acknowledge to have contributed that people could became full citizens. In some places maybe it won’t bring the revolution, but certainly deep democratic reforms.


The construction of a new Mediterranean Sea: women, youngsters and new forms of participation (2014)

Global Revolution (I). Sequence of gestation, explosion and contagion of the network movements cycle 2011-2013 (I)

Notes from the Three years of interconnected riots. Emergence, evolution and challenges of the network movements in the context of the #GlobalRevolution, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 23, 2013. More notes on this event: globalrev.

Guadalupe Martínez (Universidad de Granada. Expert in the Tunisian electoral process)
The Tamarod (rebellion) movement. Expression in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Bahrain, Palestine, Iraq.

The Tamarod phenomenon takes place in a specific geographical area — the one that was part of the Arab Spring in 2011-2012 — but an area that is expanding — now towards Syria. But we have to take into account that not all Arabic countries are experiencing this movement, and not all countries are from the Arabic world (e.g. Turkey).

The Tamarod movement stands for rebellion and is liked with the Arab Spring, but it is not exactly its extension. It begins circa Spring 2013, a major visibility during Summer 2013 and a later phase of active action during Fall 2013. The name Tamarod is used in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Bahrain, Palestine an Iraq. In Libya it takes the name of Rafd (rejection) and in Palestine as Qawen (resistance). The focus of reference is Egypt 30 June 2013 and it is an interconnected movement with the Net as a main node (especially Facebook and Twitter).

Common characteristics

There is a sociological mimesis: young, urban and educated citizens with experience in activism.

None of the movements questions the legitimacy of the governments, or how they did get to the government, but they do question how they use power once in office. This does not mean that there are no specific characteristics in each case/country: indeed, the focus of pressure is different as there is a defective illiberal democracy in Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya; a pluralist quasi-comptetitive authoritarianism in Morocco; or an restrictive hegemonic authoritarianism in Bahrain. And the distribution of power is also different: presidential republics (Egypt, maybe Palestine), parliamentarian republics (Tunisia, Iraq, Libya), absolutist monarchy (Bahrain), and constitutional (though authoritarian) monarchy (Morocco).

So, in general, the movement(s) aim at dissolving the ruling institutions, but they do put the accent or focus in different and specific aspects of their respective institutions. Tamarod is a movement for democracy, and in no case is a movement against a specific group (e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood or the islamists). Thus, the relationship of Tamarod with the parties of each country depends on the context, the inner institutional structure of the country, the very same nature of the parties, etc.

The role of the security forces has also been slightly different in each country, ranging from frontal opposition (and fight), no implication at all, or even a positive implication — most of the cases, though, feature a negative implication of the security forces.

Lali Sandiumenge (Journalist. Author of the blog:

The Kifaya platform is born in Egypt in 2004, made up by experienced activists (“from the previous generation”) to ask for dire reforms in Mubarak’s government. Kifaya gathers, thus, people that have taken part in many other protests. The new thing is that the young wing of Kifaya trains other activists on how to use the new tools of technopolitics.

In 2006 there’s the blossoming of the islamist blogosphere. Youngsters belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood thus demand through the Net the freeing of imprisoned activists and, on the other hand, claim having a voice on their own without the mediation of media.

In Mahalla, during 2006 and especially in 2008, there are worker protests, which in 2008 becomes a complete riot, not only about labour rights but about basic needs like food (e.g. rice, which had seen its prices sky-rocketing).

The 6th of April Youth Movement is created in Spring 2008 to support the riots in Mahalla and it becomes the first hybrid movement which is born online but supports an offline movement and vice-versa: to try and spread an offline movement making strong an online movement.

After the murder of Khaled Mohamed Saeed (May-June 2010), a page is created on Facebook and quickly becomes a central forum of political debate around democracy (and the lack of it) in Egypt.

Little by little, the riots in Tunisia spread towards Egypt where activism escalates. The protests then quickly become an international unrest and evolve in parallel in both countries. Besides blog pages, Facebook pages, etc. in Arabic, increasingly lots of activists publish in English to escalate the conflict and place it outside of the region’s boundaries. At last, a general call is made to take Tahrir Square. Mubarak blocks the Internet, causing a Streisand effect and making the movement even more visible and gathering more international support.

Javier Toret (Investigador. Trabaja entre filosofía, política, psicología y tecnología, Datanalysis15M)

There are several factors that made the 15M movement blast, that generated a movement that became unrest and evolved into a huge movement.

There is a process of learning, specially in the field of technopolitics. “Hacking + activism + netstrike = hacktivism”. Added to this process, there is a context of an economic crisis, which is one of the determinants, but not the determinant of the 15M movement. Indeed, it is more important the political crisis around the legitimacy of democracy and a need to regenerate it: #nolesvotes, Generación NiNi against the bipartidism, Juventud Sin Futuro, etc.

Technopolitics is way beyond cyberactivism and is not at all slacktivism. Technopolitics is an idea of intervention, is feeding back the physical and the digital layers to improve political activism.

The 15M movement started in social networking sites: 82% of the initial participants new about the movement online — especially Facebook. 1.5M were very active and circa 8.5 participated in any way. 76% of the participants came not from traditional political activism: it was initiated by a brand new generation of activists.

The different movements were interconnected: 31% of the participants of the #nolesvotes movement then came to participate in the 15M. In other words, the 15M movement was slowly born in many other movements that evolved, merged and exploded into a new one.

There is a multilayer activism, which begins in the physical layer (i.e. the streets and squares), then up to the digital layer to try and impact the mass media and political layers.

What the 15M does is to gather all the energy spread across different social networking sites and digital platforms, and to make it go out of the Internet and onto the “plazas” or camps.

After that, the movement boosts. Searches on the internet about the movement, or even keywords as “democracy” peak after the camps, the network dramatically increases its size, a network of camps and replicating nodes is created, nodes are empowered, etc.

Israel Solorio (Researcher. YoSoy132 Movement, Mexico)

In Mexico is difficult to think about any social movement without taking into account the Zapatist movement and how they used technological tools for their own political actions. Other movements that affected were, of course, the Spanish Indignados movemement of the 15M, and also the killings of Tlatelolco during the student mobilizations in 1968. Among many others.

A difference from the YoSoy132 movement and the 15M movement and Democracia Real Ya is that the Mexican case was totally unintended. It all starts with a boycott to candidate Peña Nieto at the Universidad Iberoamericana.

The movement achieved major visibility through individual spokesmen that made it to the headlines and mainstream media, especially TV channels — though a specific individual ended up being hired by the main corporation, Televisa, which was a blow to the credibility of the movement.

Differently from the Spanish 15M movement, which was against political parties in general, YoSoy132 was definitively against the candidate Peña Nieto. Then, when Peña Nieto won the elections and came to office, the movement went into a sort of stand by state, with some action, but mainly remaining latent.


Q: how are these movements being populist (or not)? Martínez: it is difficult to state. Many times they are just asking for a genuine regeneration of democracy, but it is also true that, in the Arab region, they often use populist messages and iconography to raise awareness and wake up people by the feelings.

Q: do you think mainstream mass media are censoring the news they do not like, or is it just that they do not understand or do not how to explain the movements? Martínez: it is interesting to state that many media — especially those that are against the government — in the Arab region, media are actually reinforcing and amplifying the movements. Toret: it really depends on the place. In any case, it is true that it is a common characteristic that these movements try to break the circle of power made up by governments and mass media and that determine the public agenda. Solorio: the role of media has been evolving along time. Initially they amplified the movement, as they wanted to foster political debate (or fight the candidate), but now they are more against it and aim at its destruction.

More information


Global Revolution. Three years of interconnected riots (2013)

From the Arab Spring to the Global Spring. How to think on the global relationships of the new movements in the digital age

Notes from the Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet. From the Global Spring to the Net Democracy, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 24-25, 2012. More notes on this event: comsc.

Presentation of the 2n day of the Conference: Joan Coscubiela

Most social structures of the industrial society seem inadequate for today’s problems.

On the other hand, in times of change not only aren’t there many solutions, but existing solutions are far from being global or valid for all problems and contexts.

Another big problem is that people that have lived in previous social models usually do not have the keys for transformation.

Can we go forward with a de-constituent process that is followed by a constituent one? How will be build the required consensus? What is exactly the social conflict of the XXIst century? Is it capital? Is it the control of information? Of networks? Is it the control of the economic powers that are beyond the political power? How do we combine short-term solutions to daily problems with long-term, systemic ones?

Round table: From the Arab Spring to the Global Spring. How to think on the global relationships of the new movements in the digital age
Chairs: Arnau Monterde (Programme in Communication and Civil Society, UOC/IN3)

#yosoy132 #15m #ows #tahrir have implied more thatn 10 millino tweets in the last year. What is the impact of the whole set? What are the relationships between these movements? What is going to be next in these movements and in the very nature of these movements?

Nizaiá Cassián (UOC); Israel Solorio (Member of YoSoy132 Mexico)

Israel Solorio

The nature of YoSoy132 was quite different form the 15M Indignados, at least in its origins.

The nature of YoSoy132 was quite different from the 15M indignados, at least in its origins. The movement originated in universities to fight poor democracy, but quickly grew outside of the educational environment and thus YoSoy132 International is like the assembly of the circa 70 assemblies that generated after the initial spark of the movement.

Nizaiá Cassián

YoSoy132 is a Mexican students protest that initiates when the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) candidate Enrique Peña Nieto is haunted during a conference at a university because of denyal of human rights violation. After mainstream media minimize the impact on the image of the candidate labelling the students as a “few violent misfits”. The response of the students is a major, decentralized campaign, led by 131 students, stating that they are neither “a few” nor “violent misfits”. The result is that thousands of students support the initiative of the 131 by stating that they agree with them and that they are the 132 student.

This movement has determined the development of the electoral campaign, the way students have been more engaged in politics, etc. It is important to stress the point that the movement did not only address the political parties and politicians, but most especially mainstream media and their lack of neutrality and ethics. The criticism against Mexican media powers was very strong and as part of a demand for more and better democracy.

Israel Solorio

There is a deeper digital divide in Mexico than in Spain. In Mexico the usual way to diffuse (alternative) political messages is the bridageo, consisting in delivering leaflets in the underground or the streets. But YoSoy132 somewhat brought into the spotlight the power of social networking sites, and how they could bridge the Net and the street.

Indeed, having an influence on the communication agenda was always one of the main goals of the movement.

The movement YoSoy132 acknowledges the great wealth that the 15M movement generated by documenting procedures, sharing tools and opening their source code, analysing how people communicate and got engaged, etc. The 15M still is a good reference to be able to know the pace of things.

And the other way round: all movements feedback one each other, as “Rodea Televisa” was an inspiration to “Rodea el Congreso”.

If power goes global, let’s globalize the resistance.

Pablo Rey Mazón (OccupyResearch)

Pablo Rey analyzed the coverage that newspapers did of the 15M which can be seen in the following links:

A similar analysis with Occupy Wall Street and the pepper spray incident also shows that what people talk about and what media show is closely related, but unlike what used to happen in the past, it is interesting to see that social networking sites are beginning to condition what ends up in the front page of newspapers.

The relationship and mutual feedback between social media and traditional media is increasing, many times creating “transmedia” pieces of news that are originated in one platform and then is transposed to the other one, creating a dialogue across platforms and actors.

[click here to enlarge]

The Occupy movement generated around it a group of researchers and communicators that focused on gathering and curating content about the movement, in order to record what happened, diffused it, and, above all, analyse it, like #OccupyData NYC or Occupy Research.

Main things learnt: activists have learn new ways to mobilize and, more important, to communicate. Many citizens have seen new movements (and Occupy specifically) as new and fresh ways of engagement and of changing the typical political discourse. The movement has also acted as a bridge between collectives (immigrants, unions, etc.) that usually did not work together and that now are part of a same network, [added after numeroteca’s comment] though this bridging was not broadly achieved.

Lali Sandiumenge (Author of: Guerrilleros del Teclado)

The Arab Spring really is a regional phenomenon, not a collection of isolated/national unrests. There really is a collective conscience that transcends the boundaries of countries. The increase in the number of blogs since 2004 in the Arab World is exponential: from just some dozens to literally hundreds of thousands, many of them speaking one to each other about human rights and civil liberties. Of course, every country has its own revolution (or transition in some of thems), but the collective sense prevails.

In the case of Egypt, even if now in a political transition, the revolution is still going on: there still are protests, there still are victims, there still are struggles to speak and be heard. There is a symbiosis between the fights in the streets and the fights that happen online: the street and the online world are not separate worlds. Indeed, one of the acknowledged flaws of the revolution in Morocco is that it has not succeeded in taking the streets.

On the other hand, despite the fact that all the Arab revolutions are part of a bigger network and share a lot of knowledge (tactics, tools, etc.) there still is the feeling that a closer relationship and collaboration could take place. Added to that, the different regimes are also fighting back the movements on the Net too. And, still, one of the problems to be informed of what a network does is being part of the network.

Kazeeboon’s channel on YouTube shares footage taken on the streets on protests and human rights violations. But these footage is taken “outside” of the Internet and shown in the streets, on walls, on the ground or even on people so that everybody (with or without Internet access) can see what has been taped.


Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet (2012)