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Users repurpose Egyptian government's tourism hashtag to voice dissent

As part of an online initiative aimed at boosting the country’s ailing tourism industry, the Egyptian government created the #ThisisEgypt hashtag, which includes a video that has gone viral in Egypt, reports Yahoo News. The fast-paced clip is shot from the point of view of young travelers visiting local sites (including the Red Sea coast and the Great Pyramids of Giza) and records their exploits on their smartphones. However, things went awry as Egyptian Twitter users have hijacked the hashtag to tweet about state failings.

Although some Twitter users have used the #ThisisEgypt hashtag for its intended purpose, sharing picturesque images of their local surroundings, hundreds of others have used it as a platform to voice their dissent.

Among the negative tweets that contain the hashtag are statements highlighting the current government’s human rights abuses and images that depict state failings.

In a series of tweets, Egyptian journalist Wael Eskandar explained his motivation for using the hashtag: “I’m not trying to hijack the #ThisisEgypt hashtag, just doing what they said, #Egypt through my eyes.” Eskandar’s posts include links to Facebook images of citizens currently being detained by the country’s authorities.

This isn’t the first time Egyptians have taken to social media to rally against their government. During the Arab Spring in 2011, which saw mass protests in the country against the autocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak, protesters reportedly used Twitter and Facebook to spread messages and organize meetings. They did so again in 2013, when demonstrations were being held against the country’s preceding president, Mohamed Morsi.

Egypt’s current leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (who came to power following a military coup in 2013), has faced criticism regarding his government’s dubious human rights record, reports The Washington Post.

The #ThisisEgypt initiative is part of the Egyptian government’s strategy to revive tourism, which has suffered of late due to political instability in the country. Matters were made worse recently when a Russian airliner crashed into the Sinai desert, killing all 224 passengers on board. Russia subsequently stopped all flights to the country.