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Iraqi Political Battles on Social Media | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Various Social Media Icons (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Baghdad – The electronic armies (e-armies) have caused concern for the head of State of law Coalition and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to an extent that he issued a statement accusing websites and TV channels of fabricating news without any evidence.

Over the past few years, the term “electronic army” was used in reference to online pages and accounts created by political parties to target their opponents. Maliki’s electronic armies are probably the most active in the field.

Observers believe that through monitoring the way Maliki’s army operates, his foes were able to create similar armies which affected his reputation.

Maliki was prompted to issue a statement to contain the damage saying that social media pages and broadcast channels are fabricating news and telling rumors. He also said that these pages are run under different names and use abusive language against every politician, political party and state officials.

He also accused e-armies of targeting people claiming it as part of defense against this politician or that, or a victory for this party or that movement. He called bloggers and youth to commit to values in their comments and articles and warned that the process of tarnishing others will only lead to failure.

It’s true that most parties hire activists and bloggers – and even use loyalists – to target their political opponents, but Maliki’s loyalists were notably active between 2010 and 2014. Even more, his two sons-in-law MPs Yaser Abd Sakhil and Hossein al-Maliki lead Maliki’s e-army which targets his competitors. They even launched a campaign on Facebook against current Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi accusing him of betraying Maliki and denying his right of a third term as PM. Abadi’s close circles also run certain pages which are less active than Maliki’s and launch electronic campaigns against Maliki.

A source at the State of Law Coalition told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Maliki’s statement is based on the conviction that most offenses against Abadi on social media are issued by Maliki’s e-army and vice versa.

News circulated that certain Shi’ite parties had reached some sort of an electronic truce where all parties will suspend attacks against each other.

The source said that enthusiasts of this party or that might say – or do – certain things that could leave bad influence on political relations and create real crisis.

MP Hanan al-Fatlawi accused Abadi’s e-army of fabricating rumors on social media. On her official page, Fatlawi said that Abadi’s e-army stopped after their leader (Abadi) began replying personally to those who criticize him.

Fatlawi is close to Maliki and was one of the most prominent members of the State of Law Coalition before forming her own movement: Irada. She is one of the most active Iraqi MPs on social media and is accused by her opponents of leading a network of e-armies to target rivals especially Abadi.

Few months back, activists and bloggers discovered that a famous TV presenter runs several pages that defend and promote for Fatlawi.

Prominently, e-armies are originally active within one entity and then expand to target other political entities. In other words, certain pages affiliated with Shi’ites parties would target other Shi’ite parties: Sadrists attack Maliki and vice versa. Similarly, pages of Islamic Supreme Council would target Maliki and Sadrists. Sunni parties’ pages would do the same; they begin targeting other Sunni blocs and officials then later move on to other blocs.

Bloggers noticed that over the past few months certain politicians and political activists began promoting themselves on social media, something which wasn’t common previously.