Gulf-based groups, charity organizations, and prominent individuals active in fundraising for the Syrian revolution have intensified their campaigns during the month of Ramadan, in which most Muslims prefer to donate their prescribed Zakat, a sum of money that wealthy Muslims are obligated to donate to needy people annually. Dozens of fundraising campaigns have been launched in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar to collect funds for Syrian rebels, mostly for humanitarian aid.
The following is a review of Ramadan fundraising campaigns to support the Syrian uprising:
Usage Of Social Media For Ramadan Fundraising For Syrian Civilians And Rebels
In order to encourage Muslims to donate during Ramadan, charity organizations have published high-quality YouTube videos reminding viewers about the rewards that Allah has reserved for those who contribute food for impoverished men and women to break their daily Ramadan fast. In fact, some organizations have targeted audiences on social media such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, including the creation of various hashtags to solicit donations. Phone numbers and Skype accounts have also been provided to donors to call or text via the WhatsApp application.
The Qatar-based Imdad Organization For Relief And Da'wa has a powerful YouTube video which shows footage of mujahideen, children, and displaced women in Syria who are in need of food, clothing, and shelter. Similarly, the Ahl Al-Athar Charitable Society, which is based in Syria and funded by donations collected in multiple Gulf countries, has an active Facebook page with more than 14,000 "likes," a YouTube channel with almost 600 videos, and a Twitter account with over 1,300 followers. All of these social media tools have been effectively used to advertise for fundraising campaigns, collecting donations, and documenting how funds are being managed.
These fundraising campaigns are not limited to providing humanitarian aid for civilians in Syria. In fact, some campaigns are entirely dedicated to supporting the mujahideen with money and weapons. Under the hashtag "I will donate to the Mujahideen in Ramadan," a tweet encourages sending money and weapons to the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) - an Al-Qaeda affiliate and one of the main jihadi groups fighting to topple the regime of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad – and provides contact info through a Facebook page. When clicking on the page, which features a group of mujahideen lining up with an image of an explosion on the other side, a poster titled "Ansar Allah Campaign" provides phone numbers and Twitter accounts below a quote that reads "send your money to us, and leave the rest to us." Other hashtags, such as "Support Al-Ansar Mujahedeen" and "the Mujahedeen in Ghouta are in need for money" have started during Ramadan, and exclusively call for donation to jihadi groups.
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Campaigns In Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, And UAE
Charity organizations, politicians, clerics, and prominent figures have been actively urging Muslims to donate in public speeches, mosques, social gatherings, and TV shows, as well as on social media sites.
In Kuwait, prominent figures and well-known families have regularly been hosting fundraising campaigns in their houses, at which people could make donations in many forms, including cash. Recently, the well-known Kuwaiti Al-Kandari family organized a two-day donation campaign in association with prominent politicians and influential clerics such as Dr. Walid Al-Tabtabai and Sheikh Nabil Al-Awadhi.
Bahrain's "One Body Campaign" has been among the most active ones on the ground, as well as on Twitter. Under the hashtag "One Body Campaign," pictures of donation centers with cash donations inside boxes have been posted, with calls encouraging donors to donate at the closest location.
"One Body Campaign" in Bahrain
In Saudi Arabia, fundraising campaigns have been handled by the government. Calls for donations are advertised on TV and via cellphone messages. The Saudi National Campaign To Support Brothers, a government organization, is responsible for receiving and managing donations. On its website, this organization provides a bank account number where donation can be deposited and locations at which material donations can be dropped off.
The UAE government is also involved in fundraising campaigns during the month of Ramadan. On July 24, 2013, the Sheikh Muhammad Bin Khalid Al-Nihayyan Cultural Center and the Zayed House for Family Care, both of which are government organizations, organized a campaign titled "From Emirati Children To Syrian Children," which aims to support children in Syria. Qatar Charity, which is also a government organization, announced the launch of a major fundraising campaign to provide assistance to up to 10 million refugees and displaced Syrians. The campaign, titled "Pain And Hope" will begin on July 30, 2013, marking the beginning of the last ten days of Ramadan. During these days Muslims tend to be more generous, as the rewards for their Zakat are said to be multiplied by Allah.