Wikimedians of the Levant/Reports/2018/2019 Report
This is the fourth annual report for Wikimedians of the Levant user group. It covers the financial and project year from May 20th, 2018 until May 19th, 2019. During this period, Wikimedia Levant hosted various activities both online and offline, with a particular focus on editing and photo competitions, exploring new GLAM opportunities and continuing the usual success of the recurring Education Program.
Ongoing activities between May 20th, 2018 and May 19th, 2019:
- Wiki Loves Monuments: Jordan, Palestine, Syria
- 13th Arabic Wikipedia Day (Jordan, Palestine, online collaboration)
- Education programs (Najah, Birzeit, Hashemite)
- Monthly meetings held on the first Saturday of each month (minutes)
- Lectures by Mohammad Abdellatif of Dadd Initiative at Birzeit University (blog post)
Bridge Across Cultures
As one of Wikimedia Levant's first major partnerships with fellow affiliates from the Wikimedia Movement, Bridges across Cultures was one of the User Group's most successful projects for 2018. This editing contest was designed as a process of cultural exchange, where volunteer editors from both Latin America and the Middle East/North Africa get to contribute Wikipedia articles in their native language about a region far away from them in the world.
The contest was first proposed at Wikimedia Conference 2017, planned at Wikimania Montreal and conducted online during the period from December 5th, 2018 to January 20th, 2019. Wikimedia Levant was a primary organizer among other affiliates from the MENA region and Latin America. The results were highly successful, with a total of over 900 articles produced over the duration of one month. Detailed data can be found in the table below.
|Region||# of Participants||# of Pages created/expanded|
|Latin American participants||731|
|Total||56 contributors||948 articles|
Wikipedia celebrated its 18th birthday on January 15th, 2019, for which Wikimedia Levant dedicated a successful online editing campaign. The event (executed solely on a virtual basis) produced over 60 articles on topics related to the Levant countries.
Wikimedia Levant participated in the global WikiGap event on 7 March 2019 in Amman, celebrating an International Women's Day in a very Wikimedian spirit. The event was hosted at Al-Khwarizmi Academy in Amman, in partnership with over a half dozen local and regional groups such as UN Women, the Swedish Embassy and the Jordan Open Source Association, among others.
Several volunteers from Wikimedia have dedicated an entire work day to train nearly a hundred volunteers on how to contribute to Wikipedia, with three training sessions being held during the week leading to the event. The results were a surprising success, producing a total of 130 articles contributed during the day about Jordanian, Arab, Swedish and Canadian women. The event was concluded with a dinner at the Canadian embassy in Amman.
Arabic Wikipedia Day
Each year, Arabic Wikipedians gather forces for 24 hours during their local encyclopedia's birthday to celebrate by contributing hundreds of articles and featured content in Arabic language. Wikimedia Levant participated in the event by hosting a small, local edit-a-thon in Amman, Jordan. The event was attended by eight volunteers who collectively added two featured articles to Arabic Wikipedia (about the Emperor Penguin and House Sparrow, so much love for birds!).
In an additional, major contribution, Wikimedia Levant members in Palestine (who couldn't manage to do their own edit-a-thon) announced a For Wiki Initiative (لأجل ويكيبيديا). For Wiki was a one week campaign following Arabic Wikipedia's birthday, targeting Education Program students, that successfully added or expanded 47 articles on Arabic Wikipedia. A gracious way to celebrate, indeed.
Wiki Loves Monuments 2018
Wikimedia Levant organized its fourth regional version of Wiki Loves Monuments, the international photo contest, in September 2018. One significant difference from previous versions was that the contest was structured as a single event for the entire area of the Levant: thus, contestants from Jordan, Lebanon, Syria & Palestine all participated together to compete for 1,000 USD worth of prize money.
This year's version had a moderate success, with a total of 913 pictures uploaded to Wikimedia Commons (398 from Palestine; 241 from Syria; 196 from Jordan; and 78 from Lebanon).
In an outstanding achievement, Wikimedia Levant's local competition successfully scored the 2nd place in the international competition of Wiki Loves Monuments (the highest ranking ever achieved by an Arabic-speaking country participating). The title was claimed by Mustafa Wa'ad Al-Qaisy for his fascinating picture, Petra Al-Kaznah by Night: also chosen among the top ten photos form Jordan.
Wikipedia Education Program at An-Najah National University
Wikipedia Education Program at Birzeit University
The edition was also organized in March and April, in which 56 students participated and created 23 articles, its ceremony was conducted on 15th September 2018 (See here).
Wikipedia Education program in Hebron
This edition was organized between November 2018 to January 2019, 23 students participated from more than 14 schools. They created and expanded 71 articles on Arabic Wikipedia, uploaded 209 photos to Wikimedia Commons, and added 600 Palestinian quotes to Wikiquote. (See here and here)
The Wikipedia education program at the hashemite university in Jordan activities between 20th of May 2018 until 20th of May 2019 yields the creation of more than 911 articles and more than 300 students involved. Courses were: cell biology, bioinformatics (second edition), world children day editathon, wireless networks (second edition), and translation (1) course.
Two WikiData workshops were facilitated by Wikimedia Levant in two different localities during this cycle:
- 18 November 2019: organized in Nablus, Palestine by Mohammed Hijjawi. The event was hosted at Al-Najah University and generated an attendance of about 20-25 people. (See more: Link).
- 10 March 2019: organized in Amman, Jordan by Raya Sharabin, in collaboration with the Jordan Open Source Association. About fifteen people attended, and a social media group was formed as a community for future work.
Project Open Jordanian Heritage
Within the user group's scope of work, bridging content gaps and expanding topics or visibility related to the Levant region is essential, including its heritage that dates back to some of the earliest stages of human settlement. Hopefully a future role model for the rest of the region, a pilot project was initiated in early 2019 to bring more content about the heritage of Jordan to Wikimedia sites. The project operates with three primary sets of outcomes:
- Heritage data: the first step is to build a coherent database of sites with historical, cultural and national importance in Jordan. After unsuccessfully seeking many government organizations, the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) agreed to donate such a database with complete geographical coordinates, site status and other information of about 140 sites. These will be in turn imported to WikiData and used to generate a geolocation map and a Wikipedia article list.
- Heritage photos: except to the notable Petra (among the New Seven Wonders of the world), archaeological sites in Jordan have next to no visual documentation on Wikimedia projects. Volunteers find it hard to take photographs of places often located deep in the desert with limited access, while professional photographs are rarely willing to give up any of their work for free. Luckily, we have been able to agree on initial donations from ACOR and a passionate individual photographers who both have thorough archives of virtually every heritage-related site in the country.
- Heritage articles: eventually, Wikipedia articles remain the most important, well-known and sought after part of Wikimedia work, for which reason, they're crucial for a project aiming to promote Jordanian heritage on Wikimedia sites. After generating a full list of relevant heritage sites from the database we have acquired, a strong campaign will be announced to complete all the necessary articles by the end of 2019 or mid 2020. This will include featured article collaborations by Wikimedia Levant as well as various public edit-a-thons and workshops, the first of which will be held (in partnership with ACOR) starting from September 2019.
Scheduled as an added value to her trip to the GLAM WikiConference 2018, Katherine Maher paid a three day visit to Jordan and Palestine to support Wikimedia Levant's community. The opportunity was greatly employed to help the User Group in its outreach to both individuals and to major organizations in the region with which there could be exceptional future collaborations.
Katherine visited a number of major institutions in Jordan to sign or make initial agreements between them and the community, including the Hashemite University (where an MOU was signed), Al-Dustoor Newspaper and Abdel Hameed Shoman Foundation. Her visit to the last started a GLAM partnership with some events following months later, while her speech The Ahiliyah School helped motivate hundreds of students attending the previous school of a current WMF employee.
To help further connect with the local communities, lunch meetings were convened both in Amman and Ramallah to help Katherine sit down with Wikimedia Levant volunteers and learn more about their needs, challenges and future hopes.
In partnership with the highly successful, closely aligned project of Wikitongues (aspiring to create an oral directory of all languages), Wikimedia Levant helped document some locally endangered languages. Within this unusual pursuit, volunteers from the User Group interviewed a fluent speaker of Syriac and the head of a local church in Amman, Jordan. The interviewee was very friendly and made several visitors wait to complete the interview. The audio is now available