Dubai: Social media was abuzz with talk of a turning point in Syria's pro-democracy uprising following the alleged torture, mutilation and death of 13-year-old protester Hamza Al Khateeb at the hands of the Syrian regime.
Many Twitter and Facebook users changed their profile pictures to a shot of a smiling Hamza Al Khateeb, as the online campaign against the Syrian regime escalated.
On Twitter, Nidal and Joanne Binni (@FlashNewsPlus), a freelance journalist in Malta, tweeted: "#Hamza Al Khateeb's death is going to be pivotal for the Syrian Revolution. No tank, bullet or military force is stronger than his innocence!"
Al Khateeb's body was returned to his family last Wednesday, following his disappearance after a demonstration on April 29, activists said on their Facebook site, Syrian Revolution 2011, which has 190,000 members.
The graphic video showing the bullet wounds and torture marks on his body had almost 60,000 views on video sharing site YouTube since it was uploaded last Wednesday, and has been circulated on social media since.
Users predicted that the killing would spark angry demonstrations against the Bashar Al Assad regime and ignite a wider protest movement with former regime supporters abandoning Al Assad.
Egyptian activists used social media to plan a mass protest at the Syrian embassy in Cairo today at noon in response to Al Khateeb's death.
Reem Al Nahhas (@reemasaurusrex), from Florida, USA, changed her Twitter profile picture to that of Al Khateeb, and tweeted that Al Khateeb would become the "Mohammad Al Durra of the Syrian revolution".
Symbol of rebellion
Al Khateeb, it was said, has become the symbol of rebellion against injustice, as Mohammad Al Durra, the Palestinian child shot multiple times by Israeli forces in 2000, became a symbol of the second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising.
Lebanese blogger Ali Saif (@bloggerseif) tweeted: "The 13-year old, Hamza Al Khateeb, who was murdered in #Syria will be the #BuAzizi of the nation". Mohammad Bu Azizi has been credited with sparking uprisings against authoritarian Arab regimes, which have come to be known as the Arab Spring.
The Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire on December 17, 2010 after having his cart confiscated by government officials.
Public squares in Tunis and Paris have been named after him.
Since then, the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes have fallen, and the regimes of Syria, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait Iraq, Morocco, Jordan and Algeria have seen political unrest to varying degrees, with social media playing a major role in mobilising and disseminating information.
A recurring reaction on social media was the often taboo comparison with Israel, as outraged internet users equated the brutality of the regime's crackdown with that of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, and some went further to say that the atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians "paled" in comparison to those of the Syrian regime against its own citizens.
The Syrian revolution Facebook group has declared this week to be the "Week of Hamza Al Khateeb" and today would be "The Day of Burning Posters" of Bashar Al Assad "to clean up Syria".