Socialite and reality star Kim Kardashian has done it again: she’s waded into Middle East affairs without really understanding what it’s all about, drawing fire from impassioned, disappointed fans.
Last weekend, she took a break from her everyday affairs – posting photos of herself in designer gowns and updating fans on her dates with her fiancé, hip hop artist Kanye West – to comment on the civil war raging in Syria.
The conflict has also spilled over into Armenian Christian villages in Syria. One such village was Kassab, whose residents fled the area last week after rebels took over.
Kardashian, who has Armenian heritage, urged fans to save the ancient village. However, she appeared to inadvertently bolster false claims by loyalists of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who said Syrian rebels desecrated the village’s churches and slaughtered residents.
“If you don’t know what’s going on in Kessab please google it … As an Armenian, I grew up hearing so many painful stories,” Kardashian wrote in a March 30 tweet, using an alternate spelling of the village’s name. “Please let’s not let history repeat itself!!!!!! Let’s get this trending!!!! #SaveKessab #ArmenianGenocide,” she wrote.
— Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) March 30, 2014
In doing so, the celebrity underscored how Syria’s war, more than any other in history, has been waged on social media, with both supporters of Assad and those opposing his rule using selectively chosen videos and photos, sometimes faked, recycled or altered, to support their positions.
While wartime propaganda is as old as conflict itself, the Syrian conflict is a particularly resonant case where all combatants heavily use social media, opening a window into a conflict that reporters can barely enter.
Kardashian’s use side-by-side of the two hashtags “#SaveKessab” and “#ArmenianGenocide” also suggested she was linking the flight of most of Kassab’s 2,000 residents to the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman forces in the early 20th century.
The event is widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey, however, denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.
Kardashian’s publicist Ina Treciokas said Kardashian was “just voicing her support for Armenians” and said she had no additional comment.
Kassab’s residents fled after rebels seized their village on March 23, as part of a rebel offensive in the coastal Syrian province of Latakia, Assad’s ancestral heartland.
There are no credible reports that rebels killed any residents, or that they inflicted major damage on churches.
Kardashian appears to have moved on since.
Her Kassab tweets were followed by a flurry of sultry selfies of her riding on a boat in a skimpy top and long skirt with hashtags like #WishYouWereHere and #WhatALife. She has been posting from Thailand in recent days, including one photo that shows her sitting at the entry of a temple featuring the Buddha.
This wasn’t the first time Kardashian ventured into choppy waters with a tweet about the Middle East.
Last November, during Operation Pillar of Defense, the star tweeted out a message for support to “everyone in Israel.” She was panned by some of her nearly 17 million followers, who said they had lost respect for her after the tweet. Some comments even included veiled death threats.
Shortly thereafter, Kardashian added another tweet, this time in support of the Palestinians: “praying for everyone in Palestine and across the world!”
Both tweets were soon deleted from her account — the wonders of modern technology! — and she returned to her usual roster of material, such as her workouts and upcoming outfits.