After communism and capitalism, there is asterism.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Landing at the Iraqi Blogodrome

Its been a fascinating week - with so much to read I don't know where to begin. So here is my best effort. Read how a mainstream media company created a blog that actually matters, how one Iraqi blogger wants to make peace with Israel, how bloggers rate the latest political developments in Iraq, a dicussion on the state of the Iraqi blogosphere and, if you read to the end, who to blame when you close down your blog comments section.

If you read on other posts this week read these

Miraj is asking:
How come I have problems getting to any country in the world, including Jordan?
Jordan the country which is standing on its feet by the Iraqis living there...

How come I am rejected everywhere in the world with my Iraqi passport?

How come I am being judged for someone else’s mistakes?

How come any American can enter any country in the world, including the countries they destroyed?

Didn't they invade our country?

Didn’t they encourage terrorism with their famous excuse of Destroying Terrorism in the world?

Didn’t they kill our children , our women, our men?

Didn't they humiliate us in Abu Ghraib with their sexual sickness?

Didn't they lie to the world about the war in Iraq? ...

All the “How come” 's are questions that do not need answers from those who think they are superiors to mankind and any such answers will be deleted immediately

Saddam defense lawyer, Khamies Al-Ubaidi was kidnapped and killed last week and Ishtar could not find someone to interview:
I [was] left with one choice only, I will try Khamis phone number though his telephone now might be in the hand of his killers but I will do it, “No, I won’t do it.” “ I will do it.”

I dialed Khamis number, it is ringing, Oh, No, How is that it is still ringing? They must have thrown it somewhere.

I tried again and again till a woman answered me, Oh , My God, I asked her who is she?
Read on to find out who..

A stripey leopard

Last April I wrote of MSNBC's Blogging Baghdad blog:
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.
Now I must eat my words. Not only have they morphed into true blog with the compelling immediate stories that grab your attention, but you get the kind of uncorroborated hearsay that really explains what is happening. It is just so unlike the mainstream media. And on top of all that they link back to my Global Voices Iraq section! Here is a taster of their kind of reporting..
SCENE TWO: Street corner Sadr City. Midnight. The two young men are waiting outside for Abu Durra's men. Four cars arrive and pick up my friend and his friend. They drive in a convoy to an open market. It's closed for the night. My friend described to me what happened next.

"We drove into the market. It was empty. There was trash in the streets and the fruit and vegetable stands were all shut. We stopped the cars and Abu Durra's men took a man out of one of the cars. He was blindfolded and his hands were tied behind his back. They sat him down on the curb and shot him three or four times in the head."

"How many people did they execute while you were with them?" I wanted to know.

"Six or seven."

"And each time, they drove to a new place? Why? Were they worried the police or soldiers would come after hearing the gunshots?"

"No, they are the police and soldiers. They weren't worried about that at all. They were proud of what they were doing. They went from place to place so they would spread out that bodies. They wanted as many people to see what they had done."

Lets just hope it does not end up getting sanitised by some corporate suits who are worried about sounding too negative.

The Week in Politics

This week the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, announced an amnesty and reconcilliaiton plan and caused a string of comments. Truth About Iraqis is pleased:
"First, the Iraqi government seems to have realized it cannot pave a way forward with violence. This is good because it may... indicate that we Iraqis have learned from the horrors of the past. ... But some in the US military are incensed that Iraqis would seek national reconciliation and instead say the resistance engaged in terrorism against the United States."
And Omar of Iraq the Model is optimistic: "So far things seem to be progressing smoothly, but nice words and promises mean very little until they translate into real work; which is my hope." he writes.

But, others are not so encouraged. Ishtar reports that while "Maliki was declaring his reconciliation project, ... Mahdi army supported by the commandos of the ministry of Interior was busy launching attacks against Sunni dominated neighborhoods in Baghdad". She adds:
reconciliation is really what we need in this time, but I was expecting something more powerful, I feel I have heard all the items in this project before, there is nothing new, when I read it I felt as if I am having food without salt.

There was also some disagreement on who should be included in the amnesty. Mohammed believes an amnesty for those who have killed multinational forces would be a serious contradiction while Ladybird comes with the opposite opinion that "Maliki closed all the doors of reconciliation by making a conditional amnesty".

Meanwhile workers rights are disappearing. Baghdad Connect writes that "The Iraqi government froze all bank accounts belonging to the Federation of Oil Iraqi Workers inside and outside Iraq. This decision is in the wake of a series of actions taken against professional associations to include the Bar Association. And all [union] activities of the workers will be considered illegal."

Truth Teller has had enough. He declares:
YOU American if you can't control the security situation, leave now and let us solve our problems in our own way.

It will never be worse than the current situation. Three years of occupation and despite the daily statements of the US official about the progress in the security, the condition progress from bad to worse. Every day is worse than the previous.

Can any body imagine how the US super power together with the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police and the allied forces from so many sources are all failed to control the chaos in this country.

This country was controlled in peace and security by the power of single Dictator.
Don't believe that this dictator killed people in his 35 years of control more than what was killed in 3 years of freedom and democracy under the US controls.

And Truth About Iraqis makes his peace with Israel:
The dictatorships, monarchies, and theocracies in the Middle East needed Israel to keep them in power. They could argue that they were at war, that stringent and desperate measures were needed. And that in order to “liberate” Palestine, billions needed to be spent.

Let us also examine the number of people that have been killed. And displaced? And become refugees? And … And … And …

So, my call on Arab governments and peoples – make peace, sue for peace, find some way to make peace, open up dialogue, enough is enough. We in this region have bled and bled and bled and nothing has changed.
But probably not on terms they would agree to:
Israel must withdraw to the 1967 borders and realize that economics, not the military, are the best ways to keep borders secure. ... Israel must also release Palestinian prisoners. ... Israel must tear down its wall, must end its sieges of Palestinian towns and villages, must stop its repressive policies in the areas it occupies. Of course, this will have to be taken step by step and with confidence-building measures on both sides.

In Other Worlds

Zeyad is in Jordan and after his bad impression of Jordanians when he arrived he had a pleasant meeting with Jordanian bloggers last week. He compares the Iraqi and Jordanian blogospheres:
We briefly discussed the deteriorating situation in Iraq and the state of the Iraqi blogosphere after the initial small talk. They seemed a tad surprised that there were no attempts back in Baghdad to arrange an Iraqi bloggers get-together at any point, a fact that I have lamented in some earlier posts. Salam Pax did once suggest a small meeting back in 2003, which never took place, and I tried the same last year during my blog hiatus when I collaborated with about 30 other Iraqi bloggers to create an Iraqi group blog, a listserv, and a portal (the site is dormant now). We learned at the time that about a dozen of us lived in the very same neigbourhood, but other than small meetings with 2 or 3 bloggers, there was no group meet up.

Jordanian bloggers, on the other hand, regularly meet and collaborate on several projects. They have a successful blog portal at Jordan Planet, which is also a good introduction to the growing Jordanian blogosphere. Bloggers in Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait and Bahrain have also arranged several social gatherings, in addition to maintaining a strong blog conversation and interaction, despite political or ideological differences.

The Iraqi blogosphere, even though it was the first in the region, and probably still the largest, remains fractured and divided, with a few notable exceptions. All out attempts to establish a community or dialogue have miserably failed. Iraqi bloggers very rarely challenge or link to each other (I’m probably even guilty of this myself), and if they do they choose to link to bloggers who share their viewpoint. I don’t really think that is what blogging is about.
Iraqi blogs have passed 200 in number today, but less than a dozen are well known. This is largely because most bloggers live in a void. They are like isolated islands.

These comments stirred Emigre from a self imposed Iraqi blogging exile to respond:
Why is the Iraq blogsphere divided and who might be most responsible for the sniping?

Unfortunately, a lot of this, from what I could tell during my time blog counting, was coming from American and perhaps eastern European dissidents. Often from characters who were constantly pretending to be right-wingers in a way that exceeds standard sarcasm. Copy-cat offenders, I would call them. Which pissed me off no-end. These people did not seem to get the message that some other net dwellers find that kind of behaviour tiresome and unproductive.

What might be a solution?

I really am not sure there is one. I would tend to say it might be better not to expect one at all. I never really did. I do deplore disharmony, but loathe it as I may I'm not sure it's something humanity can ever really over come.

And, a sign of hard times ahead: The security situation has forced Iraq's only cat blogger to emigrate to the UAE. She writes, "to keep my self from getting hurt I have to leave my country, my family, my friends, and my cats, all I can do now is hope that I'll be able to return back to Iraq one day and that things will be different from what it is now. But I promise that I'll never stop blogging no matter where I am."

And finally

There are good ways and bad ways of closing down comments in your blog. The best I have seen so far is to blame the gods.
Dear Readers,

The goddesses of Ishtar have decided to close the comments section until further deliberation with the God Shamash.

And after my deliberations with the God Shamash I will be back with more reviews of the blogodrome next week.


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