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US Capitol riot comparisons to Middle East spark fury online

Many have called the comparisons infuriating, orientalist and an insulting analysis of events
Chaos broke out outside the US Capitol Hill building in Washington (Left image: AFP/ Right: Reuters)

As supporters of US President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol building on Wednesday, forcing it into lockdown and causing several deaths, many people compared the scenes to the Middle East - parallels that have been criticised widely online. 

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The violent riots in and outside the Capitol building caused lawmakers to delay the congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election win, amid chaos as mobs forced their way in and looted the government building, even making their way to the Senate floor. 

Some commentators called the violent scenes in Washington DC reminiscent of events that would happen in the Middle East, an observation which has been deemed offensive and orientalist by many online.

CNN journalist and political commentator, Van Jones, said the situation “looks more like Syria than the USA” in televised coverage of the events. 

Videos of Arabic media coverage of the violent and chaotic scenes were also circulated online, with some gleefully mirroring the way events in the Middle East were previously covered by Western media. 

Others used the events as an opportunity to remind people that violence and mob mentality are not exclusive to the Middle East, and have been witnessed in the US previously.

Online, people urged others to stop comparing the events to other countries, with one social media user stating “This is white supremacist violence and it is 100 percent American.”

Four people died in Wednesday's unrest, including a woman who was reportedly shot by the US Capitol police. 

Scenes of destruction were witnessed inside the building as people stormed offices and smashed windows. 

Social media users have continued to highlight the irony in the events, and took it as an opportunity to show that the US has also long been in political turmoil, contrary to the stereotype that exists around the Middle East.

Some have also highlighted that the events have been fuelled by Trump’s rhetoric over the years. 

Humour and sarcasm were also used to remind others how looted artefacts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region ended up in museums in Western countries. 

A number of leaders from the Middle East have raised concerns over the violent clashes unfolding in the US. 

Turkey’s foreign ministry issued a statement advising the US to deal with the matters calmly, using the law and democracy to overcome it. 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani meanwhile stated that the events in the USA showed “what a failure Western democracy is” and how Trump, as a “populist man”, has “damaged the reputation of his country".