Facebook banned in Syria

'Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you. Everyone can use Facebook.' Well, except if you live in Syria that is.
By Abdullah Ali, Menassat.com Contributor
Facebook image

DAMASCUS, Nov. 20, 2007 (MENASSAT.COM) - Like other young people around the world, Syrian youths were swept away by the massive wave generated by Facebook on the Internet. They loved the welcoming space that allowed them to meet new people, communicate and join groups with common intellectual, social and political goals. However, no sooner were they overwhelmed with joy, that they were deprived of it!

The Syrians awoke on November 19 to find themselves isolated from the world of Facebook. What distressed people even more was that the decision was issued suddenly and without prior notice, preventing them from saving the addresses of their Facebook friends.

What makes it even worse, is that the Syrians had only discovered Facebook over the past few months. [Ed.: Unlike Lebanon, where everyone under thirty seems to be on Facebook, and Facebook is the most visited site.]

The Syrians embraced Facebook. The website seems to have awakened a desire to meet people and it revived the language of discussion and dialogue. Many youths were able to learn about the ideas and thoughts of their peers in many other regions through Facebook. It also helped bridge the gap between those who believed they were on opposite sides.     

A variety of Syrian groups has sprung up on Facebook in the past few months. Some were trying to give a more positive image of their country to the world, while others tackled prevailing traditions that prevent society from progressing, such as the “No to Honor Crimes” group.

Sill others tried to raise the awareness of Syrian citizens by urging them to acquire knowledge and adopt positions fear, such as the “No to the blocking of websites in Syria” group or the tongue-in-cheek “Five reasons why I love Al-Atri and Al-Dardari” (the Syrian PM and his deputy) group.

It was also noted that the Syrian youths were the least likely among Arab youths to use Facebook for sexual purposes. Even though some tried to form such sexually-oriented groups, they failed to attract any members. The “sex group in Syria” has not as single member as yet.

However, the Syrian authorities were not so taken with the whole Facebook thing. On November 19, they decided to block Facebook on all servers operating in the country, thus severing the link between a large number of Syrians and newly-found friends inside the country and around the world.

In light of the official Syrian silence regarding the reasons why the website was blocked, some provided speculation as to what these reasons might be.

In this context, the Al-Jamal website mentioned that the blocking was due to the fear of the security authorities over an Israeli infiltration in the groups of Syrian youths.

Someone else commented on that theory by saying: "Why didn’t Israel block Facebook? Is it because it doesn’t fear a Syrian infiltration of its youth? Or do the Israeli youths love their country more than the Syrian youths?"

[Ed.: A group has been created on Facebook, called 'They banned Facebook but we're going to make it work again' in Arabic. The group's administrator is someone calling himself 'Sea Breeze' who lists his address as 'Facebook Street, corner of Banned Websites Street, Damuscus, Syria.

[The group also offers a solution for Syrians wanting to access Facebook regardless of its blocking.

[The site http://facebookoxy.com/ offers general solutions for unblocking Facebook.

[Below is a list of proxy sites through which you can try  to access Facebook.