BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraqis have launched a selfie campaign on major social media networks such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to reject sectarianism and violence within the country. They are using the #NO2ISIS as a message of Iraqi unity and as a way of condemning the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS.
The conflict between the Iraqi government and ISIS began June 6 and continues to intensify. In response, many in Iraq and allies around the world are uniting by using the hashtag to bring attention to the violence and misconceptions of the situation.
ISIS is an offshoot of al-Qaeda and was formally rejected by al-Qaeda in February. The group, also a fighting faction in the Syrian civil war, was able to take two major Iraqi cities of Falluja and Mosul. The radical Sunni group has committed horrendous acts of violence and fights against Shia and Kurdish groups in both Syria and Iraq. Its takeover in Iraq was cause for both domestic and international alarm.
The campaign denounces the sectarian actions committed by ISIS. It also dismisses the generalizing coverage by the media that the conflict in Iraq is simply Sunni versus Shia fight.
Specifically many tweets for the #NO2ISIS campaign addressed the June 18 protest against BBC’s coverage of Iraq and the company’s use of sectarian language to broad brush the situation. Those apart of the campaign stress the need to see the problem as multidimensional. To describe the violence in Iraq as based on longstanding religious and ethic tensions does not provide the complete picture.
Additionally, those posting stress that ISIS does not represent the views of Islam or the Sunni sect within Islam. They describe the situation as one of the Iraqi people against terrorism. And in this fight, the campaign calls for all religions and ethnicities to stand together against terrorist acts.
The #NO2ISIS movement also expanded into a selfie campaign. The campaign includes Iraqis as well as international supporters taking a photo of themselves with the hashtag in order to demonstrate their solidarity with the country and their opposition to ISIS. The pictures offer personal statements of why all should stand against the militant group.
However, both sides are utilizing social media. ISIS has made extensive use of social media to propagate its fight. It has been posting and spreading word of its violent attacks in Iraq on the Internet.
The campaign criticizes the acts committed by ISIS and presents the perspective of those hoping for peace and a united Iraq. Along with the original hashtag, people are also using #PrayForIraq on social media. It offers an avenue to express their fears and thoughts about the violent events unfolding. Many say that the event is a humanitarian issue not simply an Iraqi or Middle Eastern Issue.
The hashtag campaign offers an insight into those personally affected by the violence. It also helps to rebuke the propaganda ISIS posts as well as the misrepresentation of the crisis by mainstream news channels. #NO2ISIS gives a side to the Iraqi crisis as told by Iraqis.