Al-Jazeera reports that a brainstorm by the Syrian state news agency, SANA, to boost the image of that war-torn nation—and its dictatorship—did not pan out. SANA’s English-language division asked its Twitter following to contribute photos to a #SummerInSyria hashtag.
Unfortunately, they did.
— SANA English (@SANA_English) June 22, 2015
Right off the bat, that’s an obnoxious bit of hashtag overload in a single tweet. More importantly, Syria is not really the premiere summer vacation destination in the minds of most Internet users. True, a sizable number of people have been slipping over the Turkish border to get into Syria, but they are not packing picnic baskets and selfie sticks.
Al-Jazeera reports that only a few of SANA’s followers responded with pictures, and they were not exactly the stuff of travel brochures:
— Official Jargon (@OfficialJargon) June 22, 2015
— Fadi Al-Qadi (@fqadi) June 22, 2015
The UK Daily Mail describes the hashtag as “quickly swamped with chilling images of neighbourhoods destroyed by airstrikes, and of children brutally killed by barrel bombs and chemical weapons deployed by President Bashar al-Assad’s troops.”
“Other shots showed rows of dead bodies lying naked in a town square and were satirically captioned suggesting the victims were merely ‘sunbathing,'” the Daily Mail adds.
About 250,000 dead over the last four years provides a great deal of material for such photographs. It is not clear if the #SummerInSyria hashtag was intended to promote tourism, exactly, but the Daily Mail notes that the Syrian economy has collapsed by more than half over the past four years, while the currency has lost 78% of its value. Even the population of the country is down by 17%, due to both war casualties and refugees fleeing the country. An economic meltdown might lead to a military collapse, or continuing military reverses might precipitate an economic disaster. The regime had to be fairly desperate to think this hashtag stunt was a good idea.