Paris (AFP) - Using the hashtag #BlueForSudan, activists, social media influencers and celebrities have begun a viral campaign to express solidarity for protesters in Sudan based simply around the colour blue.
International concern has grown in recent days over the situation in Sudan after the military earlier this month dispersed a sit-in in Khartoum leaving dozens of protesters dead.
But, unusually for a crisis in Africa, awareness has spread even to young people around the world as celebrities on social media, sometimes with tens of millions of followers, take up the cause.
According to activists writing on social media, the blue viral trend started after a protester named Mohamed Mattar was shot dead in Khartoum on June 3 during the crackdown. His favourite colour was reportedly blue.
It "started as a tribute to him, now turned to a symbol of all our martyrs, and their dreams of a better Sudan," wrote a Twitter user calling himself Saad the Lion (@Saad_Alasad).
Many users have also replaced their profile pictures on Twitter and Instagram with the colour blue, a move that has found prominent backers.
These include Sheikha Al-Mayassa Al-Thani -- the sister of the emir of Qatar. She is head of museums in the emirate and a hugely influential figure in the art world.
"Stand with humanity, stand with Sudan — show solidarity by turning your profile to the colour blue!" she wrote on her official Twitter (@almayassahamad) and Instagram accounts, while changing her picture.
On Instagram, British supermodel Naomi Campbell, who has over seven million followers, reposted Sheikha Al-Mayassa's post and changed her own profile picture to blue.
American singer and songwriter Demi Lovato -- who has almost 73 million followers -- also changed her profile picture to blue on her Instagram account.
Another American singer Ne-Yo also changed his profile picture, reposting a post urging people to "raise awareness" over Sudan.
- 'More can be done' -
On June 3, days after talks between protest leaders and the military collapsed, armed men in military fatigues broke up the protesters' camp in an operation that doctors said left 120 people dead.
The health ministry has put the death toll for that day at 61 nationwide.
Adding his voice through more traditional means was US actor George Clooney, who had long been critical of the ruling elite in Sudan under ousted ruler Omar al-Bashir and has closely followed the crisis in its western Dafur region.
Writing an op-ed for website Politico with prominent American rights activist John Prendergast, Clooney called on the US to shut those behind the violence out of the international financial system.
The article said Sudan's Rapid Support Forces, blamed by activists for the June 3 crackdown, were the same Janjaweed militia who carried out the Darfur massacres -- just with another name.
"Much more can be done...to create consequences for the leaders of the regime and the Janjaweed destroying and looting the country," Clooney and Prendergast wrote.