Ethan Zuckerman’s online home, since 2003

The Free Syrian Army deploys kittens, the ultimate Internet PR weapon

FSA Kittens is a tumblr blog dedicated to celebrating the kittens fighting to overcome the Assad regime in Syria. The dozen or so posts range from the documentary to the deeply whimsical:


This FSA kitten, Yasmeen, is on sniper-duty. Yasmeen’s commander shared with FSA Kittens Yasmeen’s sniper log for August 23rd:

8:30 am: Two regime soldiers observed marching a young child at gunpoint. Range: 500 meters. 2 shots fired. Both regime soldiers killed. Child ran free.

11:00 am: Conducted deep infiltration behind-enemy-lines. Identified Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer among regime troops. Range: 250 meters. 1 shot fired. IRG officer killed. Successfully evaded patrols and returned-to-base.

At first, this looks like confirmation that the Internet is made of cats. (See also the Internet Defense League’s Cat Signal, the Cute Cat Theory and Google’s experiments with cat-detecting AI.) But there’s slightly more than meets the eye.

An August 8th article in The Guardian by Martin Chulov focused on ferocious fighting in Salahedin, but included some paragraphs that paint a vivid picture of life in the besieged city:

Street 15 in Salahedin now resembles Leningrad in its darkest days, and the suburb itself is in far worse shape than when the Guardian last visited on Saturday. Most streets on the eastern side are now impassable by car. Broken sewage and water pipes and food leftovers have formed a festering stew over the few surfaces that aren’t littered with the flotsam and jetsam of war. And Salahedin has a new arrival – flies, which swarm around anything organic. They are so thick in some parts that rebels look for detours to avoid them. As they do they need to avoid trampling on the only other thing that seems to be living at ground zero of the battle for Syria – kittens.

Rebels have taken in many of them, and it’s not uncommon to find a gnarled, sweaty guerrilla sleeping on the floor of a commandeered flat with an abandoned kitten asleep on his chest.

Two men sleeping in what passes for a first aid clinic in one part of Salahedin had to throw their new pets aside late on Wednesday, when a wounded rebel appeared like a ghost in their darkened doorway. He fell on a foam mattress clutching his left side. “A sniper, haram,” he said. “I was going to meet the defector.”

Who doesn’t love a freedom fighter who sleeps with a stray kitten on his chest? Probably folks like Peter Beaumont, who warns that we need to pay attention to war crimes perpetrated by the FSA as well as those carried out by the Assad regime. Or commenter on the article, JoshRogan, who notes that “Far from being reported, the rebels are being shown literally as kitten-loving good boys, while anyone who supports the government is akin to a Nazi.”

In other words, even cute cats have politics.

If you were trying to get people to pay attention to the conflict in Syria, which fights for media attention against the US elections, you could do worse than to recruit a few kittens to the cause. The emergence of figures like Wael Ghonim as focal points for the Tahrir Square protesters helped a global audience relate to the thousands of protesters trying to overthrow the Mubarak regime. It’s been harder to identify the “face” of the Syrian civil war. Perhaps that face has whiskers?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

 
Powered by WordPress | Designed by Elegant Themes