Thursday, 15 May 2008

Iraq on the web

. The disintegration of Iraq used to be big news but it has faded from the headlines of late as the worlds eye roves elsewhere. However, there is still the small matter of Iraq being an occupied country and ordinary Iraqis struggling to exist and get to grips with their countries future. The Internet is proving to be one of the main mediums through which ordinary Iraqis can make their voices heard.

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 2007).

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". A lot of Iraqi blogs emanate despondency; the by-line for BlogIraq is "an Iraqi who used to have dreams." It ruminates on the disappointment that many Iraqi's feel with the occupation, marking it's fifth anniversary by starkly saying:

"Those five years were nothing but another episode of suffering. With some new types of suffering, I must admit. If we look into facts of what this war has accomplished in five years, and I mean the accomplishments to the simple Iraqi person who does not have "Democratic" dreams, you can simply say, NOTHING." (March 19th)

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. Having said that it is regularly updated and thus is a fresh source of information.

Presumably the authors of Iraq The Model thought that they were being ironic in their choice of title although Iraq has become something of a model of the limitations of what military intervention can achieve and how it can go badly wrong. Baghdadee 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 Iraq Slogger. 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.

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 on Words That Come Out.

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