Social media platform tries to bridge sectarian divide in Iraq

Social me­dia platform called Neproo al­lows users to share views with each other in Arabic but with censoring mechanism.

Promotional images used by Neproo.

2016/11/20 Issue: 82 Page: 21

The Arab Weekly
Azhar Rubaie

Diwaniyah, Iraq - Iraq has seen a sharp increase in sectarian and ethnic tensions in the last decade, prompting Sajad Saadi Salman to use his computer skills to do some­thing to help ease them.

The 18-year-old from Qadisiyyah province developed a social me­dia platform called Neproo that al­lows users to share views with each other in Arabic but with a censoring mechanism.

Words that could be used to de­note sectarian differences, such as Sunni or Shia, are not allowed. Also banned are a wider range, includ­ing Muslim, Christian, Yazidi, athe­ist, faithless, sectarianism, Islamic State and Kurdish.

Neproo places the letters in the censored words with asterisks — **** — much in the way obsceni­ties or other unwanted terms are masked by other platforms.

“The aim of this project is to help counter the many social networks that play a key role in promoting sectarianism in the country,” Sal­man said. “Neproo is my participa­tion in the responsibility to fight sectarianism.”

He said he had designed other software projects but Neproo was by far his “most popular among social media users”. In addition to photos, Neproo allows users to share audio and video files. He said that the idea for the application came to him four years ago but he only recently completed it. “Ne­proo is the first such platform in Iraq and Arab countries,” Salman said.

“I have faced many problems and obstacles that frustrated me but I got through it with success in the end, with the help and sup­port of my family and friends,” he added, calling on “all Iraqi youths to improve their talents to serve our country”.

Salman’s project impressed the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

“Sajad is a national treasure that we should support in order to de­velop his potential,” said Ahmed al- Mosawi, general director of public relations at the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Mosawi said talented young peo­ple such as Salman participated in training and educational pro­grammes in developed countries to expand their skills and experiences.

Salman will likely be invited to take part in the ministry’s Arab Identity Festival in December, which has the theme No Violence, No Extremist, No Terrorism, to share his work, Mosawi said.

Salman said Neproo has had more than 10,000 users since its launch.

The main target of Neproo is Iraqi young people but Salman said he hopes people from all over the globe will join.

In similar fashion to Facebook, users can add friends and join groups to exchange views.

“It is an amazing programme that is unique,” said Mohammed Qasim, 21, a Neproo user. “I like it because it rejects sectarianism.”

Durgham Sabah, 23, a univer­sity student, said he likes the pro­gramme for the same reason.

“Neproo is a wonderful pro­gramme that is against sectarian­ism. I did not come across some­thing like it in the whole World Wide Web,” he said. “I really hope that it becomes successful, but it still needs to be developed more to be more user friendly.”

In addition to Arabic, users can also register in German, English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Rus­sian, Spanish and Turkish. How­ever, the censorship software does not apply to non-Arabic words.

Azhar Rubaie is a freelance journalist based in Iraq.

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