Solidarity, Social Media, and the “Refugee Crisis”: Engagement Beyond Affect

A Research Paper co-authored by Miriyam Aouragh and Zakaria Sajir, published by International Journal of Communication


The images of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old who drowned in the Aegean Sea in 2015, and Omran Daqneesh, a five-year-old covered in dust and blood waiting shell-shocked in the back of an ambulance in 2016, both symbolize the horror and suffering endured by civilians throughout the “refugee crisis” in Europe and the civil war in Syria. Yet, the circulation of these images mobilized different outcomes. Kurdi’s image engendered solidarity that was supported by action, whereas Daqneesh’s image did not result in the same effect. This article reflects on the potential for solidarity of images circulating on social media by placing them in relation to the context in which they are embedded. The results of our study show that although shocking images can awaken compassion toward the oppressed, they do not necessarily translate into movements of solidarity, but can rather degenerate into ineffective forms of pity.


Miriyam Aouragh


Dr. Miriyam Aouragh is Leverhulme fellow at Communication And Media Research Institute. She grew up in Amsterdam as a second generation Moroccan and has a background in cultural anthropology/non-Western sociology (Vrije Universiteit Amsterrdam).

For her PhD (University of Amsterdam) she studied the implications of the internet as it was first (Web 1.0) introduced in Palestine and in particular the significance of this techno-evolution coinciding with the outbreak of the Second Intifada. She was awarded a Rubicon grant in 2009 and began postdoc research at the Oxford Internet Institute where she focused on the political role of Web 2.0 for grassroots activists.

Her research interests and areas of expertise include: digital imperialism; cyber warfare; social media; activism; Arab uprisings; MENA (Palestine/Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt).


20 February 2019
Research Area
Published By
International Journal of Communication
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