Thursday, December 22, 2005

The In T View: 24 Steps To Liberty, Iraqi Journalist

Where The Sea Meets The Shore - Art Littoral by MG

Young, Baghdad-based Iraqi Journalist, 24 Steps To Liberty, runs the very fine and appropriately named 24 Steps To Liberty Blog, where he provides his readers with a Reporter's and Personal Perspective on the Events, Dramas, Politics, and Happenings in Iraq and his Life, as well as his chosen profession of Journalism.

It's The In T View: 24 Steps To Liberty, Iraqi Journalist

In T View & Artwork By Mister Ghost

MG: Hello 24 Steps to Liberty. Why don't you introduce yourself to the World Audience. Who are you, What are you, Why are you?

24 Steps: I am just an average Iraqi who had the chance and good luck to hookup with one of the best newspapers in the world and has been
working for it as a reporter for almost three years now.

MG: 24 Steps, What is the Most Important Thing to you in Life?

24 Steps: To be able to produce and try to change what should be changed. Mainly, to be part of some era's influence.

MG: Why is Libya's Moammar Ghadaffi still a Colonel and not a General?

24 Steps: Because it doesn't matter if he was a general or soldier. He rules the country and will be ruling it for a long time.

MG: Is he just a Modest Man?

24 Steps: No, he is a hollow, tough-like man with wired ideas.

MG: What makes you Laugh?

24 Steps: Stupidity of some foreigners, who think they know my country more than I do.

MG: What makes you Cry?

24 Steps: My country. My life.

MG: What book that you've read, has had the most influence on your life?

24 Steps: I don't remember the name, it was something like Leave Worry and Start Living, or something like that.

MG: Tell me about Iraq's Children: Are they being Traumatized by the Violence and Destruction? Is there a whole generation of Iraq's Youth with a Void in their Psyches, a Cloud of Darkness in their Souls? And what would you like to see done to alleviate the situation?

24 Steps: We'll have mentally unstable community for the coming 100 years. Mark my word.

MG: 24 Steps: What is your Ultimate Hope for the Children of Iraq?

24 Steps: I just hope one day they can breath freely and not feel targeted or lost, like how I felt while growing up. I wish they can find their future.

MG: How were you or your family members affected by Saddam and the Baathist Government?

24 Steps: Not directly, but we were affected


MG: Who, What, Where, Why, and How: What is the Most Important Question you as an Iraqi Journalist can ask when getting to the Heart of a Story?

24 Steps: What? I love this question. From there, I lead the way to wherever I want.

MG: What is the Typical Day of an Iraqi Journalist like?

24 Steps: Wake up in the morning at about 7am, dress up, and tell himself or herself in the mirror that "No one and nothing will make me upset today." then drive (if has a car) to the office ignoring the stupid government's decision of cars with even car license number could drive a day, and with odd drive the next!!! Arrive to the office. For those who work for foreign news outlets, they read the Iraqi newspapers to get an idea of what is going on. At least eight newspapers. Then read his or her newspaper, then the competition. Then start working. As for me, I look if there is any press conference I should go to do any interview I already set up and go to. Or, as usual, for those who cover violence, go out to the every-day-bombings. By the time they come back from all this stuff, it is almost 4 or 5 pm. They file and, as for me, go back home at around 9pm. That's it. (that's in fact a typical day for me)

MG: The hotel near your office in Baghdad was recently targeted by Suicide Bombers causing some damage to it: So, how Dangerous is it to be a Reporter in Iraq?

24 Steps: It is one of the most dangerous and unappreciated jobs in Iraq now. You never know when you are going to be in the wrong place.

MG: Have you lost any Journalist Friends or Aquaintances to the violence?

24 Steps: No.

MG: Do you feel safe/secure returning to your workplace after a close explosion, or is the thought always in the back of your mind, the next time they're going to strike directly at me?

24 Steps: No, in fact that day, when they hit a few yards away from the office, I was on my way driving to the office, but the shooting afterward and targeting any car drove by the scene prevented me from entering the compound. So I had to wait for another hour to go back. And this is not the first time this happens near the office, we had car bomb pretty much the same distance as the one happened while ago. So, it is not a big deal. It became an expected drama.

MG: Is it a tight-knit community of Iraqi journalists? Do you know each other and watch out
for each other?

24 Steps: No.

MG: Do you have be secretive when discussing your job, especially in your own neighborhood?

24 Steps: I don't even discuss it. That would be attempting suicide.

MG: How does the Average Iraqi view Journalists, especially those working with the Western Media?

24 Steps: Well, it differs according to level of education, but mainly they think we are "rich" people and don't care about our country or conveying the truth and that we just follow what the foreigners say.

MG: Do Iraqi Journalists fall in love with each other? Is Inter-Journalism Dating common?

24 Steps: This issue is not a big deal here, so I don't hear about it at all.

MG: Is there Government Censorship of the Media in Iraq?

24 Steps: Of course there is, but hidden. And they cannot prevent you from writing something, but they would target you through the irregular armed militias, which all belong to parties that dominate the government.

MG: Is there Religious Censhorship of the Iraqi Media? Can you or any of your fellow reporters write an article critical of Islam?

24 Steps: No, we are free to write, but again, it is the tradition. You would be also targeted just because you violated the rule of traditions.

MG: Are there some reporters in Iraq who are Gore Junkies? People attracted to the Death, Destruction, and Misery?

24 Steps: I haven't hear this before.

MG: After interviewing the family members of victims of the various Massacres, Explosions,
and Shootings, how do you Decompress, Escape from Trauma And Refresh your Mind? Do you take the events of your work day home with you?

24 Steps: I just don't think about it after I am done. I've never thought of a bombing scene after I filed the report to the newspaper or my bureau chief. Otherwise, I would be mentally sick now.

MG: What's the most annoying thing to you about the Foreign Media in Iraq?

24 Steps: Many of the news outlets have their own agenda. Plus, they come to Iraq with no idea about the country and its tradition, which leads to exchanged misunderstanding and disrespect.

MG: Tell me about your Mother. What is Special about her?

24 Steps: She is very sacrificing. She spent her life trying to make my siblings and I be the best. My parents lost the best of their years just to give us the best always.

MG: You tell us via your Blog, that you don't like Tomatoes. Neither do I, but I like tomato sauce for some reason. So, what foods do you like? And what is a Perfect Meal to you?

24 Steps: I like what the Americans would call "junk food." And I love pastry. My favorite meal though is Cheeseburger and fries, or onion rings.

MG: What do you do to Relax, to get away from it all?

24 Steps: Sleep. Nothing else to help in my country now.

MG: Can Islam and Democracy Coexist? Because as Dennis Prager notes via a Freedom House study on Democracy:
Of the world's 47 Muslim countries, only Mali is free. Sixty percent are not free, and 38% are partly free. Muslim-majority states account for a majority of the world's "not free" states. And of the 10 "worst of the worst," seven are Islamic states.
So, what exactly is the problem between Islam and Democracy?

24 Steps: Islam cannot work parallel with democracy. That's just impossible. But that doesn't mean Islam is a bad religion or includes bad ideologies. For many people, it works well by itself. But to combine it with democracy?? Never.

MG: Are you upset at the Jordanians for their double standards? When the Jordanian Jihadists
and others were terrorizing Iraqis, there was silence, even support for the terror from the people of Jordan, but after the Hotel Bombings in Amman and Sunni on Sunni violence, now there's suddenly 200,000-strong Jordanian protests? Is there a Hypocricy here?

24 Steps: We have lost thousands of innocent people to terrorism, we have the right to be upset. And the Jordanians lost a number of their citizens to terrorism too, and the have the right to protest.

The United States

You recently accompanied a group of Foreign Journalists visiting the United States: What was the experience like to you?

24 Steps: A five-year-old child, who has to do nothing but live peacefully. And work-wise, it was perfect to meet with my audience and know how much they lack information and how much they are misinformed.

MG: What's the Best Memory you have of the United States?

24 Steps: How generous and hospitable people are.

MG: Tell us about some of the preconcevied notions or beliefs about America that were expressed to you in Iraq? You mention in your Blog, that people kept telling you to watch out, the Americans would hurt you?

24 Steps: Yes, I was told and asked to be careful and not to stay out late at night and that I shouldn't advertise that I am a Muslim from Iraq because people might hurt me, for example, be mugged or stabbed to death. My reaction was that I stayed out late every night. Went out with strangers, whom I didn't know but for a few hours. And wherever I went, I advertised myself as a Muslim HUMANBEING coming from Iraq.

MG: During your visit to the US, you were impressed with all the American Flags that were present, and you saw this as the presence of a National Identity. Do Iraqis lack a similar National Identity?

24 Steps: The Iraqis don't lack this feeling. They are just tired of decades of false calls for the national feeling. And they need to know how to appreciate their country, the one they've never felt safe living in.

MG: Your encounter with the Ocean during your US Visit had a powerful effect on you. Can you describe this feeling to us?

24 Steps: I've been careful all my life, in what I say and what I express. That was because of the tyrant government we were living under. I was imprisoned in a very big cell, that is Iraq. When I faced the ocean, it just gave me a huge space to look at and be free to shout and scream my feelings, which I did at night.

MG: Would you like to come back to the US?

24 Steps: Sure, I would like to meet all my friends there again.


MG: 24 Steps, your Blog name is derived from an encounter you had with the Statue of Liberty, when you were on your American Journey. Can you tell us about it, the meaning of 24 Steps To Liberty?

24 Steps: I was 24 years old when I went to the statue, or ending the 24th. When the guide said "now you will take 24 steps to liberty" I was thrilled. It was like I was liberated, but very late. Every step I had to take to liberty took me a year. That is all about the name.

MG: How did you become interested in Blogging and how did your Blog: 24 Steps to Liberty come about?

24 Steps: Well, very simple. A colleague of mine was doing a story about bloggers and we talked about how much help it would be to myself if I speak things out in a blog. And I was convinced.

MG: Is there another Iraqi or Kurdish Blogger you would like to meet in person and why?

24 Steps: No.

MG: Is there another Iraqi or Kurdish Blogger you'd like to meet in person and give
them a kick in the behind, because you can't
stand them?

24 Steps: No. Everyone is allowed to say what he or she wants to say. There is no limits on polite and well-behaved blogging.

MG: Besides your own blog, what other Blogs do you like to read and can Recommend?

24 Steps: Many. In general, whatever feeds my mind.

MG: If the Automobile Genie stopped by your home and said to you, "24 Steps, I grant to thee the wish of any Car in the world of your Choosing - Make Your Choice!" What vehicle would you
select, 24 Steps?

24 Steps: Jaguar, any Jaguar car.

MG: Five Years from Now, Iraq will be?

24 Steps: My country, home, identity, and citizenship.

MG: Thanks very much for a Nice In T View, 24 Steps, and Final Question: Have you ever
seen a Ghost?

24 Steps: Not yet!

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