Author Topic: Syrian rebels use faces of the dead to recruit new fighters  (Read 302 times)

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Syrian rebels use faces of the dead to recruit new fighters
« on: November 05, 2013, 05:06:08 PM »
The Saudi man had been killed in fighting, and his corpse, with its beatific smile, was photographed and displayed in a Twitter posting inviting others to celebrate his martyrdom.

He is one of hundreds of Islamist veterans of the Syrian conflict whose deaths are heralded in Web postings, many of which feature bloody — and, occasionally, smiling — portraits of the newly deceased. Although the images may strike many Westerners as macabre, they have become one of the rites of service among Syrian jihadists, as well as a popular recruiting tool.

“These guys are celebrated, and to young people back in the neighborhoods, they are heroes,” said Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington nonprofit group that monitors Web sites and news media in the region. “They look at the photos and they say, ‘I can be this guy.’ ”

To some Syrian rebels and their supporters, Twitter is not just a communications tool but also an online cash machine, useful for soliciting donations or even running auctions for donated cars and jewelry. Others use Skype accounts to conduct interviews with potential recruits or to share advice on military tactics.

The sites’ growing popularity among the more extremist Syrian rebel groups — including some with ties to al-Qaeda — has prompted calls for more stringent policing by the US companies that own them. A handful of accounts have been blocked, but the vast majority continue to operate.

Since the arrival of the first foreign jihadists in Syria more than two years ago, rebel volunteers have used Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep their friends and relatives updated about their experiences, just as US troops stationed in war zones do.

When fighters are killed, the same Web sites offer a way to spread the news to family and friends and pay tribute to the fallen, researchers say.

Many of the postings include images and allusions intended to resonate with the Muslim faithful. In some photos, bodies with grievous wounds are posed so that they appear to be smiling or, in some cases, pointing to heaven.

Groups in Kuwait that support the Syrian rebels have used Twitter to run increasingly elaborate fundraising drives, including online auctions that accept cash bids for donated luxury goods, including Land Rover SUVs, diamond necklaces and resort properties.

Voice of Russia, The Washington Post
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