Iraq on the Web

iraqi flagNB: This was orginally written and published in April 2007.

No news day is complete without the latest installment of the unfolding horror of the disintegration of Iraq. Headlines proclaiming Iraq’s “bloodiest day” have long since lost their power to really shock. Politicians and pundits alike have endless opinions on how to deal with the crisis; however, the Internet is proving to be one of the main mediums through which ordinary Iraqis can make their voices heard.

From the Front Line

Hometown Baghdad is less a blog and more a vlog. The videos are short but informative; one shows Saif, a resident of Zayounal, attempting to barricade his house with barbed wire. Of course, the strains of living in a city like Baghdad are an ever-present theme but other videos look at more “normal” aspects of everyday life; for example, “Kiss and Tell” tells the dating stories of Saif, Adel, and Ausama. Although it is not overtly political, the crew behind the films couldn’t resist a comment on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the fall of Saddam:

When I was shooting one of the subjects as he packed his bag, I could feel my heart shivering. I even began feeling nervous behind the camera. How emotional the thought of packing is! I curse packing and I curse wars!”, (Ziad Turkey, Hometown Baghdad, April 9).

Iraqiya is the attempt of an Iraqi woman to provide a different perspective. It is written by a “typical Iraqi woman” who has “a bachelor’s degree in English and works at one of the Iraqi Ministries.” Her self-description rather belies her claim that she has “not benefited from the old regime nor the new one” but she surely reflects a lot of middle-class Iraqi opinion when she says that she “cannot deny the good things the US has done for the Iraqi people, but I think that the US should have done more to protect Iraqi people” (March 26).

A lot of Iraqi blogs reflect a growing feeling of despondency; the by-line for BlogIraq is “an Iraqi who used to have dreams.” The author’s “frustration, anger, and agony” (March 20) are unlikely to be uncommon feelings among Iraqis. At Worlds End puts it thus: “Where everything is messy, when people get sick of their life. That’s when the world ends.”

Sectarian Divide

Nobody reading this will need any introduction to the sectarian nature of Iraq’s strife. In the crucible-like atmosphere, Healing Iraq seems to be an ambitious goal. It attempts to provide a daily commentary on news and events in Iraq and is well-written. However, as with most Iraqi blogs, the author is once again something of a mystery; although this is hardly surprising under the circumstances it is something that is more reminiscent of bloggers living under dictatorial regimes and should indicate the limits of the “freedom” that Iraq has thus far achieved.

Presumably the authors of Iraq The Model thought that they were being ironic. Their prediction that Muqtada al-Sadr’s withdrawal from the coalition government may mean a move into overt opposition is a grim one for the US and its allies when you consider the reported response to the recent Sadriyah Market bombings. American and Iraqi forces in the aftermath of the explosions were “pelted with stones by angry crowds shouting: ‘Where is the security plan?’” (The Independent, April 19). If this is indeed the course that al-Sadr intends to chart then the implications will not just be felt in Baghdad. Al-Sadrists are credited with being behind attempts to oust the governor of Basra.

As al-Sadr moves away from the Iraqi government, a new Sunni party is looking to move closer to it and bridge the divisions in Iraqi society. More than 200 Sunni sheiks in Iraq’s western Anbar province have decided to form a new political party to oppose al-Qaida. The Iraq Awakening will be a national party, with a platform of opposition to al-Qaida and cooperation with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. This news has prompted plenty of discussion on Baghdadee. While it is an interesting forum, you will have to be fluent in Arabic (or at least have access to a good page/text translator) to be able to glean the most from it.

If you want to read a comprehensive news source covering Iraq then you could do a lot worse than IraqSlogger. As well as being presented professionally, it has an extensive array of sections covering topics as diverse as security and a section it calls “good news.” Its attempts to brighten the gloom even extend to the inclusion of a humour section; however a closer examination reveals that it would be perhaps better termed satire. Societies that are as deeply immersed in civil strife as Iraq’s often find that there is little separation between politics and everyday life and indeed that shines through numerous blogs whose main function is to provide a platform for their author’s views.

“Normality”

Of course, maintaining any semblance of normality in such an environment would be an achievement in itself. Everyday life becomes a battle to survive and everything else tends to be lost in that, including culture that Westerners take for granted. However, a number of blogs attempt to keep the cultural flame burning for Iraq and lend an expressive voice to art, entertainment, and other cultural staples.

Baghdad Artist is perhaps one of the more well-known artists but the blog has not been recently updated which, given its quality and presentation, is a shame. Poetry is also alive in Baghdad; “And the ball rolled into a Baghdad dumpster” tells the story of the experience of a group of children playing near a neglected dumpster. Art and writing is one Iraqi teenager’s only source of solace among the misery. She says, “I don’t really feel like writing anymore,” but says that she may “start scanning some drawing and put them here. I love art.”  Lana, the author of the blog, describes herself as Iraq’s “future presidentESS”, however it currently has to be questioned if there will be an Iraq left for Lana to preside over.

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