Most of the discourse around geographical regions relates to countries in the Middle East, but also includes powerful allies such as the USA and Russia.
A predominant theme was how users perceived relationships between the countries. There was expression of support for, and hatred toward, different countries based on these relationships. Geopolitical alliances appeared on a time continuum, and there was constant reference to changes between past and present associations. Israel, alone and in conjunction with the US, was seen as a major cause of conflict, violence, hatred adding to the tense mood in the region. Iran and its links to Hezbollah, Syria’s issues of refugees and violence, and Saudi Arabia’s rocky relationship with non-Arab Muslims, were other hotly contested topics of discussion.
On a similar note, users debated—and used varying degrees of insults—the similarities and differences between people, cultures, and values of different countries. The similarities were highlighted to show the commonality of a cross-border problem, while at other times the differences were highlighted to emphasize identity and national pride.
In the discussions about geographical regions, a recurring thread was “who is to blame” for a situation or problem. This ranged from a nuanced analysis on Reddit to wild accusations on other threads. In either case, users demonstrated a vested interest in assigning blame.
The single trend identified across all groups in the Arabic corpus was the commitment to Jerusalem as a beloved city and the capital of Palestine. This is probably because most people from the Arab world—the users who populated the Arabic corpus—followed Christianity or Islam.
The fourteen countries mentioned in these corpora can be grouped into four categories based on the relationships between them:
1. The USA, KSA, Russia, Israel, and Iran.
2. The Levant: Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.
3. Countries that suffered no negative impact from the Syrian War: Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.
4. Countries like Syria that suffered the negative impacts of civil war: Iraq & Yemen.
When it comes to the USA, KSA, Russia, Israel or Iran, the discussions were mostly negative; most users blamed one or all for the tension and violence in the Middle East. Most users agreed that the US and Israel had interest in shaping the region and accused them of funding media channels (Al-Jazeera, Arabia, Orient) that broadcast controversial issues to promote violence. Iranians were labelled “USA and Israeli dogs” whereas Iran was called the “true terrorist of the region.” Jews and Israel were often described as the root of all evil. KSA was charged with supporting terrorism in the area by collaborating with Iran, Israel and the USA, and funding terrorist acts specifically in Syria and Yemen.
When discussing the Levant, users often grouped Syrians and Palestinians together because they are often seen as refugees or marginalized people who are frequently attacked or mistreated in Lebanon. Hatred between Syrians and Lebanese was easily discernable in the discussions but its scope encompasses sectarian tensions and is not limited to the Syrian refugee crisis.
Users from Egypt and Algeria expressed love and empathy toward Syrians, Palestinians and Iraqis, while users from Morocco and Tunisia exhibited loathing toward the Syrians, labelling them as a source of violence and terror. Moroccan users also expressed this attitude toward the Lebanese. Morocco and Algeria and Lebanon were tagged as licentious societies and epicentres of prostitution, immortality and homosexuality.
Yemenis and Iraqis showed empathy toward the Syrians and Palestinians who are suffering under similar conditions of violence and terror. The mention of Syrians, Yemenis, and Iraqis was often to redirect frivolous conversations by emphasizing their extreme suffering stemming from poverty, injustice, and aggression.