Iraqi Blogs Tell Of Violence, Hope
By Firas Al-Atraqchi
01 March, 2006
Inside and outside Iraq, bloggers report on events from their own perspective and give a voice to the community that they say often goes unheard in Western media.
Salam Adil, 38, an Iraqi blogger who lives in the United Kingdom, says: "I compared reporting from the BBC and the British newspapers to the [Iraqi] blogs and there is a world of difference.
"It is as if the Western media are on a different planet," he told Aljazeera.net.
When news broke of the partial destruction of the al-Askari mosque in Samarra on Wednesday, and the government ordered a curfew on Baghdad and three other areas, news of events was scarce at best.
Journalists who tried to gauge public opinion were assaulted or killed. Atwar Bahjat, a former Aljazeera journalist who was reporting for the Al-Arabiya network, was killed while reporting from Samarra.
Many Iraqi bloggers writing from Baghdad and elsewhere reported clashes in their neighbourhoods.
Zeyad, a 27-year-old Sunni Baghdad resident who has been blogging since 2003, wrote of gunshots outside his front gate.
"Fierce street fighting at my doorstep for the last three hours. Rumour in the neighbourhood is that men in black are trying to enter the area.
"Some armed kids defending the local mosque three blocks away are splattering bullets at everything that moves, and someone in the street was shouting for people to prepare for defending themselves.
"There's supposed to be a curfew, but it doesn't look like it."
Baghdad Treasure, who is a journalist working with foreign media in Baghdad, offered a bleaker version of events.
"Shootings and explosions rocked the neighbourhood … I can't live like this. War, war, war! Enough, enough.
"I wish I didn't hope for democracy and freedom to come to Iraq. Being oppressed but safe is better than being free and unsafe. Don't tell me all these slogans of freedom and democracy."
Iraqi blogs first came to media attention in 2003 on the eve of the Iraq war when Salam Pax, an architect, began to write of life in Baghdad in preparation of the US-led invasion.
Pax, 32, said blogs were one of the most effective ways to gauge the mood in the oil-rich country.
"By having a continued presence on the web, Iraqis are able to engage in dialogue and contribute to the discussion that goes on around the internet," he told Aljazeera.net.
"Recent Salon.com articles quote Iraqi bloggers on the situation in Baghdad, and many bloggers have contributed articles or given interviews to magazines and newspapers."
Salam's success inspired Riverbend, a 26-year-old Iraqi who has a degree in computer science, to follow suit. Her blog was novel because it reported a female perspective after the invasion of Iraq.
Her blog was compiled into a book, and she has won literary awards.
On Sunday, she hailed Shia and Sunni co-operation defying the worsening sectarian tensions:
"It does not feel like civil war because Sunnis and Shia have been showing solidarity these last few days in a big way. I don't mean the clerics or the religious zealots or the politicians - but the average person. Our neighbourhood is mixed, and Sunnis and Shia alike have been outraged with the attacks on mosques and shrines."
Another blog, 24 Steps to Liberty, encourages Iraqis not to lose hope amidst the violence and chides foreign media.
"Almost no newspaper showed how great, it appeared to us, the solidarity among Iraqis was yesterday," he wrote.
Empathy and activism
For Fayrouz Hancock, an Iraqi Christian who left the country in 1994 and lives in Texas, the blog helps her to communicate with other Iraqis and express her point of view about events in her country of birth.
"Iraqi blogs represent Iraqi society. You find all types of political, social and religious views. Iraqi bloggers have been successful in keeping Iraq in the news," she told Aljazeera.net.
In late January, Hancock set up a fundraising drive for the widow of Iraqi translator Allan Enwiya, who was killed in the kidnapping of US reporter Jill Carroll.
"The response to the fundraising was much more than I expected. Muslim, Christians, Iraqis, Arabs and numerous Westerners contributed to the fund. People of different political views set their differences aside to help Mrs. Enwiya. It was a very successful initiative," she said.
Hancock has also listed the names of Iraqi journalists killed since the March 2003 invasion and regularly updates on the plight of journalists kidnapped or missing in Iraq.
Although the blogs have helped Iraqis to communicate their hopes for Iraq's future, they do not always speak with the same voice, and there is often much debate, with conspiracy theories and humour thrown in.
Blogger Hammorabi wrote that the "barbaric and savage attack on the Shrine of Imam al-Hassan al-Askari in Samarra is a continuation of the barbarism of the Saudi Wahhabi terrorism".
But A Free Iraqi blamed the violence on politicians who "keep inflaming those already existing divisions for their own benefit, as they represent nothing but ethnic and sectarian hatred".
Salam Pax takes all the theories in stride, saying that every voice counts.
"You might not change the world with a blog, but you sure can raise a couple of eyebrows and open paths of communication and understanding," he said.
Today, Iraqi blogs number almost 200, most of which were listed on a website called Iraq Blog Count, run by an Australian woman who identifies herself as Emigre
"I suppose I secretly hoped suddenly thousands and thousands of Iraqi bloggers would emerge from nowhere," she said.
"But that's still down the pipeline."
Some of the Iraqi blogs:
Zeyad – http://healingiraq.blogspot.com
Baghdad Treasure – http://Baghdadtreasure.blogspot.com
24 Steps to Liberty - http://twentyfourstepstoliberty.blogspot.com/
Fayrouz Hancock - http://fayrouz.blogspot.com/
Riverbend - http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/
Hammorabi - http://hammorabi.blogspot.com/
Salam Pax - http://justzipit.blogspot.com/
Salam Adil - http://asterism.blogspot.com/
A Free Iraqi - http://afreeiraqi.blogspot.com/
Iraq Blog Count - http://iraqblogcount.blogspot.com/
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