Iraqi bloggers pose something of puzzle for the mainstream media. The quality of the writing is good and bloggers sometimes have better news than their own reporters. But how do you use it? Some have the right idea and report what the bloggers are saying. This Associated Press article was circulated widely. Some just dont get it and make their own news reports in the format of a blog. Dear media company, looking like a blog does not make your news any better.
Iraq has a new Prime Minister and bloggers give their first impressions. There is a report on the state of the Iraqi media, words of wisdom from the older generation, how one blogger integrated into English society, and much, much more!
If you read only one blog this week read this
To read this post is to feel her sadness. Neurotic Wife presents herself and her Iraq as a story. She walks home one evening and is drawn to a girl sitting alone on the pavement. Her name is Wa'ad. She asks Wa'ad where her family is:
They abandoned me…We were one huge family…kids everywhere, playing and laughing…but that was a long long time ago…I had neighbours…many of them…they used to come and have tea with us in our beautiful garden…but they abandoned me too…
Why I asked
I dont know she said with tears starting to flow down her cheeks….I dont know why….after my family left me, I went and knocked on my neighbour's house…once they saw me…they shut the door on me..I dont know why…but i promised…i promised i will come back….
but the story is a metaphor and Neurotic Wife makes a promise:
And I promised that I will be here…i will always be here waiting, waiting for them…for im Wa'ad…I am Iraq's Wa'ad…Iraq's Wa'ad that will never give up…Iraq's Wa'ad that was abandoned by my family…my family that I loved….Iraq's Wa'ad that was abandoned by my brothers and sisters…my brothers and sisters that I cared for…Iraq's Wa'ad that was stabbed by my neighbours…my neighbours that stabbed me not once, not twice…but a million times….but i promised…i promised i will be back…for Im Wa'ad…Iraq's Wa'ad… Iraq's Promise….
The Deadlock Breaks
And Iraq has a new Prime Minister. Before he was selected, Neurotic Wife was starting to get sick of the whole process:
“I cannot fathom, how these useless so called politicians cannot sit on a darn table and make a decision….Do they care about their people one bit??? Do they??? Its that darn chair again…Al Jaafari stepped down but do you think any of those nominated are better??? …
Im so sick and tired of this…literally sick and tired….I ask myself when will things get better…when will Iraq be normal again??? Is there such hope….Can you tell me what hope looks like cuz I think Ive forgotten”
And she lives in the Green Zone. Imagine what it is like for someone in the “Red Zone”.
Chikitita tells us with a summary of her part in all the Iraqi elections. From Saddam's 1995 referendum: “I was the only underage in my family and boy I laughed my head out when I made fun of my siblings, for they were scared to death and voted yes”; and the first election: “I chose the late Iraqi Monarch descendant, not because he's a shrewd politician, I just thought that, this one looks nice and clean-cut, at least he won't embarrass us in the Arab League Summit”; through to the latest election: “I didn't want to go. “Once bitten twice shy”, I told my mom. … This time I chose the ones who have promised to release all innocent detainees given the fact that my brother is one of [them]. The results turned out to be just what I have bargained for, broken promises.” She concludes:
It's just outrageous to know that the Iraqi people have been risking their lives and have smeared their fingers three times, yet their lives haven't changed one iota. Politicians, on the other hand, got fatter and wealthier all thanks to the fingers of the poor, who have plunged into ever-rising poverty and bloodbaths.
And then we found out that the imcumbent Prime Minister Jaafari will stand down and he will be replaced by Jawad Al-Malaki. “Jawad Who?” asks Omar of Iraq The Model. But he is not impressed with the new man because with him “Iraq will–in my opinion-continue to descend for the next four years in the same way it's been doing since the interim government was installed last year.” Several other bloggers on the right and left agree. Even Hammorabi who may have been expected to welcome the selection is not happy: “Any delay will lead to more attacks during the transitional time. The first mistake that Mr. Malki commit is by saying he needs 30 days to form the government. He should… submit his list [of minsters] in a day or say a week.” The most positive statement I could find about Malaki was from Z an Iraqi blogger in New Zealand. She said somewhat cryptically: “Having discussed this proposal from Mr Maliki with other Iraqi friends, I believe it can be virtually good and normally bad.”
Truth About Iraqis makes a point about militias:
Maliki used his first press conference to say that the militia would be merged into the interior ministry… He also praised the Shia fighters… as they fought the regime of Saddam Hussein. Many of those fighters today are senior figures in the militia, Badr Brigades and so on. Therefore, such statements are likely to do little to alleviate the concerns of Sunni lawmakers who accuse the interior ministry of supporting and facilitating death squads’ free rein. Merging them into the interior ministry will only make the crimes they commit against Iraqis legal and further ensure they are not prosecuted.
While Salam Adil (that's me) points out the alternate reality between Malaki's statements on keeping sectarianism out of the ministerial selection and the statements of the parties in the government.
The State of the Iraqi Media
My honorary Iraqi for the week award goes to Mahmood of Mahmood's Den. Who wrote an excellent summary of the “Status of Iraqi media” session at the 4th Arab Media Forum in Dubai which he attended. He tells us that a “surprising factor is the plethora of media outlets there are in Iraq: according to them, there are 26 satellite television stations, 40 terrestrial television stations and more than 100 newspapers including just a few tabloids!” But he says:
As to freedoms, it was agreed that although media is infinitely freer than it was in the previous era, there is no sense for that freedom if it is not coupled with a secure environment where a journalist continuously fears for his or her life. This was amply demonstrated by Adnan Hussain who read to us one of his regularly received death threats from Iraq from someone who took umbrage with Hussain’s criticism of Dr. Ja’afari.
In Other Worlds
Riverbend receives royalty in her household. Or that is how it feels when the oldest member of her family comes to stay. Bibi Z imparts some words of wisdom:
“History repeats itself… Politicians are opportunists… But they don’t worry me- they were bad, but Iraqis were better.” She continued to explain that through all of the drama and change that combine to form the colorful mosaic of the Iraqi political scene during the previous century, one thing remained constant- Iraqi loyalty and solicitude towards one another…
The one unforgivable sin back then was to have loyalties to the foreign occupier. “Today, the only ones who can guarantee their survival are the ones with the loyalties to an occupier- and even they aren’t safe.” She sighed heavily as she said this, her prayer beads clicking gently in her thin hands.
“For the first time in many years, I fear death… All people die eventually and I’ve had a longer life than most Iraqis- today children and young people are dying. I only fear death because I was born under a foreign occupation… I never dreamed I would die under one.”
Baghdad Treasure posts the news that Iraqis normally tell each other and it is the usual heart-wrenching tales of sadness and tragedy. He explains: “We hear such incidents almost everyday. Whoever we see tells us the bad news, simply because there is no good news. “Someone is killed, another is kidnapped, X was robbed, Y was beheaded, a roadside bomb went off, a car bomb exploded”… blablabla…”
Iraqis have a proverb for just about everything and Chikitita tells us a new one: “Had there been no good people, the world would have turned upside down”…she goes on to describe a neighbor who is the embodiment of that proverb and says: “Good people do exist. I'm afraid we haven't looked hard enough!”
Shaggy goes off one morning in search of Imodium. He “went to a street where more than half of the shops were pharmacies… It was nearly 9 O'Clock in the morning and every single one of them were closed. Mobile phone shops and grocery shops were open, but god forbid that a pharmacist should get out of bed to open his store. It's like Fridays, pharmacies are closed on Fridays here too, where's the sense in that? Iraqis must obviously not get sick on Fridays.”
Hala_s talks about her adventures integrating into English society:
I went shopping and clubbing like mad during the first few years. I later became more sensible and started enjoying long country walks and developed a real interest in theatre, I even tried my best to understand what cricket is all about! …
and captures the essence of the urban English as only an Iraqi can:
The biggest barrier was and still is “The drinking culture”. I have nothing against alcohol, but when it becomes the main purpose, the main reason and ultimately the only enjoyment, I and many others cannot really understand.
Going for a picnic ends up in drinking; a sunny day means drinking, watching a football match, going out anywhere is the same, drink till you drop!
The problem is the effect of it on people, not only any conversation turns to crap; but people start to allow themselves more liberties, and sometimes say things which might offend you or change your view on the person completely.
Fayrouz explains what makes Iraqi blogger unique:
Most of them were definitely much happier when they started blogging three years ago. But, when things started to change in Iraq, their opinions changed too. Even the most optimistic among the Iraqi bloggers have changed lately. It's part of life and the daily experience in Iraq.
We, the Iraqi bloggers, understand our change of mood and opinions. Unfortunately, our international readers don't seem to understand this simple fact. They expect us to continue to write the way we did three years ago. This applies to the readers from the left, right and center… If we started our blogs saying XYZ is the greatest/worst thing that happened to humanity, then we aren't allowed to change our mind any bit. The minute we do, we're considered the worst bloggers that particular reader ever read.
In short, we're different than Westerners. We appreciate each other and understand our differences. We aren't copycats of each other.
Vive la difference!