Bashiqa, Part Two: Tweet, Tweet! A Discovery of New Media

I have a confession that an American Millennial probably hasn’t uttered in years. Less than a month ago I, Laura Lundahl, got a twitter account. And if it weren’t for my internship here at EPIC, I still would know nothing of the power of tweets. I had heard rumors of course, but never truly appreciated the power of such an information tool until now.

Bashiqa skyline. Photo by Christine van den Toorn

Two days ago I wrote a blog about Christine van den Toorn’s article about Bashiqa, a village near Mosul. The entire article is a fascinating social study about one of the most diverse towns in Iraq and how the outside violence is affecting the peaceful community. Below is an excerpt from Christine’s article.

“Local Yazidis [followers of a mostly Kurdish religion that predates Christianity] call Christians ‘qreeb’ and Muslims ‘qreef’, both meaning ‘blood brother’. Throughout the history of the town, people in Bashiqa were always Bashiqi first. In 2007 when a busload of Yazidi workers from Bashiqa was massacred in Mosul by extremists who were allegedly Islamic, Bashiqi Yazidis protected their own local mosque in case “someone from the outside decided to take revenge,” one local man told me.
“There are two things … [that] would never affect the strength of local, communal ties…[here] – religion and politics,” said one of Bashiqa’s religious leaders.”

Is that excerpt similar to what you typically see or read in American news sources? I thought not. Ask the average person on the street why Iraq still has daily violence, and they will likely say, “the different sects don’t get along. They never have, they never will.” Before I started interning here I thought the same thing, but as I admitted in my first blog, I have had very little exposure to Iraq, Islam, and Middle Eastern culture and politics.

After I finished Christine’s article I was curious as to whether or not Bashiqa was mentioned in other news sources. Sure enough, a quick Google search led me to a CNN article about an honor killing that took place there in 2007. A Yazidi girl, 17, was murdered because she was “seen with” a Sunni man. According to CNN, Yazidi’s “look down on mixing with people’s of other faiths.” Two weeks after her killing was the incident involving the murders of a busload of Yazidis mentioned in Christine’s article. You have already read that the residents of Bashiqa responded to that attack with peace and concern for their neighbors. However, had you read that story on CNN first, you would have read, “The violence ratcheted up tensions between Yazids and Muslims in Bashiqa.”

Twitter Rules!

The difference in how the media reports described the situation is striking. I had always heard, especially through my Cultural Studies minor, that you should use several news sources to get the full picture of an event, but I never did much research. After all, how different could major news sources really be from smaller, independent factions? Now, just through two articles about one small village in Iraq, I feel as though my knowledge has grown two-fold.

This is where Twitter comes in. Like I said, I have only had my account for a month, but I am already addicted. I’m able to read about stories and perspectives that CNN, and even the more in-depth NPR and BBC, don’t often report on. The contrasts between Christine’s story and the 24-hour news cycle is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to differing viewpoints.

I figured I wasn’t the only person who doesn’t know everything there is to know about Iraq so I compiled a short list of my favorite twitter accounts to follow for any new Iraq observer:

I would love to have some input from you as well. If you follow a particular source, twitter or not, please let me know! Either leave a comment here, or tweet me! Because, you know, I have one of those accounts now.

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