If you've watched a TV report or read a news article on the Arab Spring, odds are you've encountered Nasser Weddady's work without even knowing it.
At the 2009 Arab bloggers conference in Beirut / Jillian C. York
BOSTON -- Outside a Starbucks here, Nasser Weddady, the Mauritanian-born activist, is drinking a latte and texting a well-known Egyptian-American writer, brainstorming a social media campaign to free a recently arrested Syrian blogger. The next day, a new hashtag will spread on Twitter, from Weddady's account to his friend's, and to their followers from the United States to Damascus to Cairo. Activists will organize themselves around the new campaign.
"It's the new revolution," he says, lighting a cigarette.
Through Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, a core group of activists has managed to organize protests, secure the releases of protesters and writers in beleaguered Arab countries, and effectively set the agenda for the incestuously close network of Arab experts, policy makers, and journalists at the center of the Arab Spring revolutions. And somewhere in the middle of it all, talking to everyone within the circle but virtually unknown outside of it, is Nasser Weddady.
In revolutions that assume that regimes like Bashar al-Assad's in Syria or Muammar Qaddafi's in Libya are deceitful, "activists like Nasser have become good go-to sources for information -- or at least, they're perceived as such and in doing so they help to set the agenda," says Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Institute.