A potted history of Twitter in Middle East politics pt 1

Last year, during all the hoopla about Iran’s Twitter Revolution, a friend of mine in Tehran found himself talking to the opposition leader at the centre of all the protests, Mir-Hossein Moussavi. Because my friend spends a lot of time in the West, Moussavi turned towards him and said: “You understand these things. What is this Twitter?” My friend couldn’t give him a decent answer – his knowledge of it pretty much stopped at the name and he’d certainly never used it (still doesn’t). At the time, looking on from the West, it seemed that Twitter was playing a crucial role in helping to organise the demonstrations. A US state department official, Jared Cohen, even asked Twitter to delay an upgrade to their network for fear of shutting down this channel during a crucial time.

Now all the exaggeration of the Twitter Revolution has been firmly debunked, but the micro-blogging tool is still able to ruffle the odd feather when it comes to Middle East politics. A piece in the New York Times the other day told of how Cohen and his colleague Alec Ross managed to upset Republican critics by tweeting minor inanities while on an official visit to Damascus - unbecoming of a diplomat they said, although Hillary Clinton says she’s “very proud of the work they’re doing”

Still, at least the Syrians haven’t shut down the service, unlike in Tehran. Khalid al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs who maintains a steady stream of tweets, told his followers on 30 June that “My blackberry and Twitter went silent upon arrival in Tehran .”

Khalifa is one of the more engaging politicians tweeting in the Middle East these days, using it to share comments and have brief conversations. Others, like Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai, and Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, just use it as a PR tool.

With all that in mind, here’s a brief and non-comprehensive run-down of some other notable politicians and leaders tweeting in the Middle East, in no particular order:

Barham Salih, Prime Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraq

Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, Minister of Higher Education, Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraq

Qubad Talabani, Kurdistan Regional Government Representative to the US

Nasser Judeh, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jordan

Amre Moussa, Secretary General of the League of Arab State

Queen Rania of Jordan

Mohamed ElBaradei, Egyptian opposition leader

Mohammad Dahlan, Leader of Fatah in Gaza, who seems to tweet a lot about fried chicken

Mahmoud Abbas, President, Palestinian National Authority

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel

I think all those are the official accounts, but apologies if not and here's a spoof one to end the list:

PresidentHosni, “born to be the Egyptian President”