Social Media Fuels Protests in Iran, Bahrain and Yemen

YouTube, Facebook and Twitter mobilize youth across Middle East.

February 15, 2011, 6:43 PM

Feb. 15, 2011— -- More than 10,000 protesters swarmed the Main Square in the capital of Bahrain today, one of the largest political demonstrations ever seen in this nation's recent history, and a second protester was killed by police.

In Iran, after the biggest mass protests since the 2009 elections, members of Parliament gathered for a deadly chant, shouting that key opposition leaders "must be executed."

And in Yemen there was a fifth straight day of uprisings, with demostrators calling for the ouster of the authoritarian president.

Behind all this was the power of the Internet, with protesters galvanized by a social media revolution.

Despite the attempts of governments to block it, a Facebook page calling for "solidarity demonstrations" is creating a cyber wildfire. Hundreds of hits on the Web site, turning into thousands, turning into upwards of 12 million -- 90 percent coming from Iran.

The call is specific: "We encourage you to join the thousands on the street right now," the page says.

The call spread through cell phones, smart phones and through people like Internet activist Omid Memarian outside Iran.

"I think this time the [Iranian] government really underestimated the power of social media," Memarian said. "They thought because of the severe crackdown that we witnessed after the election that people would not dare to go to the streets."

In Bahrain, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, protesters photographed the funeral of a demonstrator, and had it on YouTube instantly, inspiring even more to join the call for democracy.

Demonstrations over the weekend in Yemen grew larger and louder. They have been generally non-violent through the last several weeks, but there are fears that it could change at anytime.

Ala'a Jarban is helping mobilize young people in Yemen. He started by posting a few simple pictures of small protests online, urging others to join.

"I asked them to have an idea how we can show the world and the people of Yemen that those people who go out to demonstrate, especially young people are out there to ask for the better for their country and ask for their rights," Jarban told ABC News.

Social Medial Fuels Protests Across Middle East

It worked. The call to protest was specific: "Our meeting point will be at 9:00 a.m in front of City Mart. We will wear (white) shirts or T-shirt. And then we will head to Sana'a New University."

Of course governments can also use the Internet to find activists, track their movements and respond with arrests or force, but for now, the social media seems unstoppable.

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