Friday, February 25, 2011

Libyan revolutionaries used dating website to organize anti-Gaddafi protests

Fri Feb 25 2011,Tripoli:

Libya's revolutionaries used a dating website to organize their revolt against dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi, and to avoid detection by the country's secret police, former opposition leader Omar Shibliy Mahmoudi has revealed.

Mahmoudi said that he used dating site 'Mawada' to rally people together while staying out of the gaze of the Libyan secret police, which monitors Twitter and Facebook.

It was "for the freedom, not for the marriage," Mahmoudi told ABC News.

He also said that he was never politically active before, but as he watched revolutions topple governments in neighboring countries, he knew he needed to act.

So, he created a Mawada profile called "Where Is Miriam?" and pretended to be on the hunt for a wife.

The website doesn't allow men to communicate with other men, so other revolutionaries posed as women to contact him, assuming aliases like "Sweet Butterfly", "Opener of the Mountain", "Girl of the Desert" and "Melody of Torture".

The revolutionaries used poetry laced with revolutionary references to gauge support and make initial contact. Then they had detailed follow-up conversations via text message and Yahoo Messenger.

The phrase "May your day be full of Jasmine", for example, is a coded reference to what has been called the 'Jasmine Revolution' sweeping the region, Mahmoudi said.

He said the response "And the same to you. I hope you will call me" meant they were ready to begin.

If the undercover "lovers" wrote "I want love", it meant "I want liberty", Mahmoudi said.

Mahmoudi said that he attracted 171,323 "admirers" to a number of profiles on the dating site before Libya's Internet crashed on Saturday.

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