Saad Amer Mobilizes Voters With Celebrities and Instagram Filters
SAAD, a new political movement that has gained more than 3 million followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, is hoping to use the momentum it generated from the Arab Spring–the wave of protests that rocked the region during the summer of 2011–to help build a post-revolutionary government. To do that, it is relying primarily on its members’ high levels of media exposure–especially among the youth–to reach beyond the small and insular constituency of Syrian activists. But since its launch, some of the group’s most well-known Twitter users have come out in support of it. “We have seen how young Syrians use social media to voice their views and make them heard,” says Ahmad Al-Hajeri, the group’s director. “This will be a big challenge for us to expand our support for the revolution.”
The core idea that drives the organization that has recently become known as “SAAD” was first outlined, rather loosely, in an 11 September 2012 Facebook post. “The aim of this movement is to build a new government in Syria,” it reads. The idea was to build a new generation of activists from among the youth, based on the knowledge that the youth in Syria are capable of taking over the streets, and that they had the ability to develop into a new, democratic and free-market-oriented country. “It is time to turn the dream into reality!” it declares.
“For SAAD, it is not the revolution, it is the people,” says Al-Hajeri. With its followers having grown from 3 million to nearly 5 million over the past six months, and its Facebook page boasting more than 1.9 million likes, SAAD has become a powerful symbol for the Syrian opposition. But Al-Hajeri makes a crucial distinction between the opposition and SAAD. “The opposition is not just about using social media–it is about using all means in order to build a revolution,” he says. SAAD is more of a grassroots movement, he says, that is focused on building a political party. “And we have nothing like that in Syria–we need a political party, not the revolution.”
A political party does not appear to be in the cards yet, however. Even with 2,000 Facebook followers, the group’