technology : From Papua to the DRC, the ‘All Eyes on …’ Social Media Campaign Looks Beyond Rafah

Wednesday 12 June 2024 10:46 PM

Nafeza 2 world - June 6, 2024 7:00 AM EDT

All eyes are on Rafah. And Papua. And Sudan. And the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Weeks after an AI-generated image of the Gazan city became a widely shared symbol of protest against Israel’s military campaign that has left tens of thousands of Palestinians dead and over a million displaced, versions of the viral slogan have been recast to raise awareness of other causes around the world.

Perhaps most prominently, images and online posts promoting “All Eyes on Papua” have been shared and https://twitter.com/inggridient_/status/1797592345057345561 on social media. They’re in support of indigenous communities in Indonesia’s Papua province, where locals and advocates have been trying to stop authorities and palm oil companies from clearing large swathes of forest land to make room for palm oil plantations.

Some social media users have also been calling for greater attention to Sudan, where a conflict that began in April last year between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the militia group Rapid Support Forces has killed tens of thousands of people and plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis.

Read More: Reflecting on Sudan’s Civil War One Year Later

The hashtag #alleyesonsudan was used in a post on X by the Canada branch of Doctors Without Borders calling for the “protection of civilians, health workers and health structures” in the strife-torn country.

“Children in Sudan are starving too,” another user on X said in a post that shared the phrase “All eyes on Sudan” and has been seen by over 3 million people, adding: “don’t turn a blind eye. We must not be biased in our concern and compassion.” Meanwhile, an AI-generated image similar to the “All Eyes on Rafah” one has been circulated with the words “https://twitter.com/iTsAnToOnY/status/1795565802256531468.”

An Instagram story template that bears the phrase “All Eyes on Kongo,” referring to the Democratic Republic of the Congo—where millions have been killed or displaced by decades of conflict between armed forces and rebel groups—has been reshared by over 900,000 users in recent days, including by D.C.-based advocacy organization Friends of the Congo and soccer celebrities Mesut Ozil and Yannick Bolasie, the latter of whom plays for the Congo national team.

All Eyes on Kongo Instagram Screenshot
Screenshot from Instagram

The viral “All Eyes on Rafah” campaign continues to gain traction, having been shared by over 50 million people on Instagram alone, but activists for other causes insist that eyes can and should also look elsewhere. Some, using the phrase “but no eyes on Manipur?”, have tried to draw a contrast between the surge of attention to the devastation in Gaza and the relatively overlooked ongoing ethnic violence that started over a year ago in the northeastern Indian state. Meanwhile, new campaigns for eyes on Iran, Armenia, genocide in general, and other places of crisis have continued to sprout on social media in recent weeks.

While critics have dismissed such posts as merely “performative activism,” Sarah Jackson, an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, told TIME last week that there is still value in sharing such messages to raise awareness and demonstrate that one is “part of a collective that cares about this issue.”

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