Rihanna and Demi Lovato are among the people joining the social media campaign to raise awareness of what’s happening in Sudan.
In the Western world, sometimes we can forget the positive power of social media. It can be used as force to raise awareness and clues us into the human cost of events happening far from our doorsteps.
Movements like the 2010 Arab Spring were organised through Twitter, and posting symbolic pictures and hashtags have become a shorthand for showing solidarity and cutting through the noise to put an issue to the top of the news agenda.
That’s why you might have noticed a swathe of blue profile pictures dotting your feeds in the last week. Social media users are switching out their selfies for plain navy blue cards as part of the #BlueForSudan campaign, started after news began to filter out about a brutal military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that left over 100 dead.
Sudan – in the north east of Africa – has seen six months of protests that resulted in dictator Omar al-Bashir being deposed in a coup d’etat. After his removal, a military junta took charge but activists continued to campaign for civilian rule over an interim government.
On 3 June this ended in tragedy when a bloody crackdown by paramilitary forces in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital resulted in dozens of dead, including 26-year-old engineer Mohamed Mater.
Mater’s favourite colour was reportedly blue. Friends and family began changing their profile pictures to honour him but the gesture went global when his friend, beauty influencer Shahd Khidir asked her 88k followers to do the same.
“Once he was murdered, his friends and family changed their profile picture to match his, and eventually other people began to join in,” said Shahd, whose emotional Instagram post also spoke of a media blackout and near-total internet shutdown in Sudan that is preventing demonstrators from getting information to the outside world.
“Now [the colour] represents all of the Sudanese people who have fallen in the uprising.”
Reports have also emerged of mass sexual violence, with hospitals in the capital saying they’ve seen over 70 rape cases after the 3 June attack that left 700 injured.
Celebrities such Rihanna and Demi Lovato have joined the #BlueforSudan campaign while diplomats from the US and Ethiopia are meeting with Sudanese envoys in an attempt to resolve the crisis.
Images: Simon Mania/AFP/Getty Images