Friday, June 29, 2007

Can You Picture It?

Iraqi Mojo recently received a collection of old photographs from his father that were taken around Baghdad from 1918 to 1960 (Iraq before Saddam). In one of them, from 1920, you see a procession of Christian priests (Roman Catholic, to my eye) walking down the center of a street with many citizens lining the sides and people watching from balconies. Sadly, it's very hard to imagine the same procession of Christians being able to walk down a street in Baghdad today.

Christian celebration in Baghdad, 1920

Check out all the photos and try to dream.


Meanwhile M.H.Z. has written an overview of the Iraqi blogosphere (Who are the Iraqi bloggers?) that also reaches back to an Iraq that is reflected in the photos of Mojo's father. M.H.Z. writes:
It’s not about Shiites or Sunnis, Muslims or Christians, atheists or any others, I said in my last post, no religion supports death, and regardless of all the religious and historical differences, I had Christian best friends throughout my life, some of my neighbors were Christians, and we shared our lives happily for a long time, and why should I care? Or should anyone else care for my religion? however, some Iraqis do, and they think that they’re the only good ones on earth, they’re called Muslim extremists, which as far as I’m concerned means they take Islam too literally, while this is wrong, they don’t, they’re just brainwashed savages, may be they’re not humans, but they are Iraqis, some people love Iraq, some hate it’s name, and others would do anything just to spend one more day in it, and these my dear readers, are the Iraqi bloggers.
Mojo's father had lived peacefully with Christians, and M.H.Z. talks of having Christian friends. Can they live again peacefully? Can Muslim extremists be defeated? Can you picture it?


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hello to One Ali, Goodbye to Another

Today, Omar at 24 Steps to Liberty introduced a new contributor to his blog. Omar announced it like this:
Ali is a 17 years old Iraqi, who was born in a Baghdad prison because his parents were political prisoners at the time he was born. He just came to the States in August. He will tell you his story, but I wanted to say this about him:

He is very mature. I haven’t met him in person yet, but we spoke on the phone a lot and we discussed issues like Iraq’s politics, the situation in the country and what should be done next. What struck me in Ali is how logically he discussed Iraq. He is only 17 years old, but who am I to judge. I wanted it to share his stories and thoughts with you. And you will decide.

You can view his postings here. Judging from his first post, he'll surely deliver another welcome point of view on the situation in Iraq. Welcome, Ali!


Coincidentally, the Iraqi High Tribunal also announced the impending exit of another "Ali", Ali Hassan
al-Majid. The AP says this about it:

Two decades after Iraq's military laid waste to Kurdish villages, the Iraqi High Tribunal on Sunday sentenced Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," and two others to death for their roles in the bloody campaign against the restive ethnic minority.

You remember "Chemical Ali", right? He's the one who had this to say:
I will kill them all with chemical weapons! Who is going to say anything? The international community? F*ck them! The international community and those who listen to them.
Actually, check out that short batch of quotes from HRW. Ali Hassan al-Majid is surely the type of fellow only Layla Anwar could love!

So to sum: welcome Ali @ 24 Steps and buh-bye "Chemical Ali" of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes fame!

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Valentines for Saddam

Back in late December, 2006, a few days before Saddam Hussein was hung, a woman going by the name Layla Anwar posted a tribute to Saddam on her blog, Arab Woman Blues.
I will address you as Saddam Hussein, Sir.
Even though I still consider you to be the legitimate President of Iraq, allow me not to use any formalities here. Let us forget titles , ranks and the rest.
I don't care what they say about You . The misuses and abuses of power, the Dujails, the Anfals and the rest of the well knitted pieces of grossly exaggerated melodramas. I know one Truth Sir,You stayed in Iraq and did not run away like the rest. You did not seek asylum in the USA , Egypt or Jordan like others. You did not pack your bags nor your millions. You stayed and that is what matters to me.
The comments section began to attract a varied cross-section of Saddam-lovers, a few of them even from Western countries. Since then, many have congregated at her blog to share their love of Saddam Hussein and mourn his passing.

Little Deer writes:
Actually, I have been thinking of President Saddam Hussein very much over the past few days, and, like you, wishing he was with us. Especially when we are seeing whores selling off their nations: Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, to mention a few - just to gain favour with the brothel owners who have occupied Middle Eastern lands.

May the soul of President Saddam Hussein rest in peace, and may we get to witness the architects of his murder being brought to justice.
TAI writes:
I miss Saddam because under him Iraq was Iraq. Yes, yes, torture and political repression, but now you find why it existed.

Because the shruug of Qum and Madinat Saddam had to be locked in their cages. Animals.
Layth writes:
Saddam is dead but his spirit lives on in the heroic men and women who lay their lives in fighting the occupation and its collaborators...
Janice from Australia writes:
Re Saddam(RIP)
IMHO he was One in a Million and very sadly missed.
And Weronika writes:
I feel the same way you do, but I feel it towards Adolf Hitler and the morality he stood for before the Judeo-American yoke of tyranny descended upon my homeland of Europe. Of course people judge me and call me names like "Nazi" but that is moot. They are historically ignorant and they have ascribed to Jewish lies; the same lies that coerced the American sadists into murdering Hussein and his two sons, as well as decimating the nation of Iraq.

The Americans, as far as I am concerned, have forfeited their right to exist as a people. They are nothing more than supremacist killers and sadists.
Weronkia's love for Adolf Hitler, it turns out, is as strong as Layla's for Saddam Hussein.

Spring-time for Hit-ler and Cher-ma-ny!



Thursday, June 21, 2007

Muqtada Atari Goes to the Next Level

How did a fat-bellied, mossy-toothed, slow-witted video-game addict become the leader of a sizable segment of the Shia population in Iraq?

Hohammed (Last of Iraqis) has just produced an excellent overview of Muqtada Al-Sadr's rise to prominence among the Shia faithful. How did he become the hottest ticket on the Friday-sermon, rabble-rouser circuit? Some argue, you see, that he is simply a matinee idol for thieves, thugs, and malcontents with a taste for blood. What is notable in hindsight is how quickly the moon-faced Muqtada Al-Sadr pounced to remove his competition for the keys of the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, a source of not only prestige among the Shia but also considerable cash flow coming through the donations box.

On April 10, 2003, one day after Iraqis pummeled the metal head of Saddam Hussein with the bottoms of their shoes and sandals, a frenzied group outside the shrine in Najaf attacked Muqtada's rival, Imam Abdul Majid al-Khoei. Mohammed describes what happened:
[Al-Khoei's] support for the Ba'athist Raifee was used as a pretext for his murder by a Shi'a mob.Witnesses have said that they were confronted at the mosque by an angry mob, some of whom shouted "Raifee is back". They called him an "animal" and threatened to beat him with their sandals (a traditional Iraqi insult.) According to reports, al-Khoei fired his pistol in the air to get the crowd to back off. However, rather than retreating, the angry crowd surged at al-Khoei, Raifee, and the nearby civilians. The mob killed Raifee with bayonets and knives; al-Khoei was chased down and killed in an alley near the headquarters of al-Sadr, not far from the mosque where Raifee had died only a few minutes beforehand.Muqtada al-Sadr claims that the murderers were not his followers, and that he in fact sent men to prevent al-Khoei's murder. The al-Sadr family sent and published official condolences to the al-Khoei family , but it's clear to everyone that Muqtada is responsible . The initial warrant against al-Sadr produced after U.S. forces decided to shut down his newspaper, Al-Hawza Al-Natika (Speaking Hawza), alleged that members of the mob claimed to be there on al-Sadr's orders, and that he had instructed them not to kill al-Khoei inside the mosque. Al-Khoei's close followers did not blame al-Sadr for the murder (the wanted to prevent any disturbance might happen and some say they were concerned about their safety) , but instead publicly blamed former Ba'ath party members who also hated al-Khoei (in complete contradiction of his kindness to Raifee).
This would simply be the first time that Muqtada Al-Sadr used violence to get what he wanted. Since then, it has happened again and again as a way for Muqtada Al-Sadr to recruit support to himself and as a way of taking out any other competition, whether that be other Shia leaders or Coalition forces.

Mohammed brings Muqtada's career from his Dad's doorman to Shia poster-boy up-to-date and is well worth your time.

Friday, June 15, 2007

M.H.Z.'s Great Expectations

In the past I have written about the different perspectives that one finds among the Iraqi bloggers in their chronicles of or reflections on the 2003 invasion and the subsequent fall of Saddam Hussein's regime ("War and its Discontents"). Now M.H.Z., a young Iraqi blogger from Baghdad but currently living in Erbil, has added his account of those days in Baghdad in his latest blog entry, Iraqi history, the one I lived so far."

M.H.Z. first explains what it was like to grow up in Saddam-era Baghdad as a kid and then as a teenager. He was sixteen when Operation Iraqi Freedom began with the Coalition forces moving across the border between Kuwait and Iraq.
[We] went to Diyala, a city a little to the north of Baghdad, or that’s what I think, we were afraid that it would take a long time as we didn’t take but minimal necessities that could fit in our saloon car, we lived there with close relatives for about 10 days, that’s when someday, we managed to tune up an old TV, it was the same moment that the statue was being pulled by the tank ….

For, me, a 16 years old student, that’s when it all started, before that, It was an era that I was born and raised in, so there’s nothing to compare it to, after the war, we were so happy that we are back home, above all, as my parents were so happy, and after all I heard about Saddam, I was happy he was gone too, we all expected the best was yet to come…

May be not all of us, but some of us honestly did, that’s when the political arguments got spread and became present all the time every where, we used to have those during the whole school time, even at class, some people defending Saddam, some people, defending America, some people mocking the whole thing!, I never remembered an actual problem caused by that, we used to argue, then go to the basketball court and throw some shots, even when my parents argued with relatives, they were all friendly arguments, the only thing that all Iraqis shared, was anticipation ….
Like Salam Pax, Zeyad Kasim, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, and Faiza Jarrar, M.H.Z.'s account offers us another very personal view on events that changed the lives of everyone in Iraq.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Adventures of the Sunni Atheist and the Christian

Many of you will recall that Zeyad, back in 2004, was sent to a small village near Basra to complete his training in dentistry. There he was able to witness first-hand the deadly antics of the new players in the region. In "Random Thoughts," from January 17, 2004, Zeyad recounts his boss telling him about a dentist who had been murdered.
It seems that no investigation of any kind in the circumstances of his murder is being carried out. The Basrah IP just shrugged off the whole incident as an act of 'revenge against collaborators'. Great, a young man with his whole life ahead of him decides to stay and help people in this isolated area instead of returning home and this is what he gets.

The villagers are bitter about the whole thing, but they keep murmering idiotic fatalist remarks such as "It was Allah's will", "It was his fate", and "Sad but what can we do about it?".
At the same time, already in January Muqtada Al-Sadr's militia were throwing their weight around.
Another troubling incident happened last night. While we had just finished dinner at the doctors residence and were getting ready for tea, two armed murderous looking guys entered the residence without any notice and handed one of the doctors an envelope. They were from maktab al-sayed al-shahid (Muqtada Al-Sadr followers). It turned out that the doctor had ignored a lightly injured sheikh at the hospital earlier that day while treating another emergency case of a car accident. The sheikh left the emergency hall seething and shouting that the doctor would pay for this 'disrespect'. The letter inside the envelope was signed by the office of Al-Sadr and it was some sort of a subpoena for the doctor to come immediately to the office to explain his behaviour or otherwise 'face grave consequences'.
Of course, around six months later, Muqtada Al-Sadr and his militia would strike out against against both the Iraqi military and the Coalition forces, causing the deaths of many Iraqi citizens. After a week or two, he and this militia were surrounded in Najaf. But then, in what is perhaps the biggest blunder ever made by the Americans, they assented to Sistani's request to let Muqty waltz out of Najaf. And he's still at large (very large, you might say) today.

Anyway, back in January, 2004, Zeyad, the atheist Sunni, and his roommate, a Christian, had to discuss their chances of survival in a small village in Muqty's sphere of influence.
My fellow dentist woke me up at night and asked me if we should just abandon the whole internship and get back to Baghdad. "Ha! An atheist Sunni and a Christian. What do you think they'll do if they find out?". We discussed the thing for about two hours and in the end decided to stay and take as much care as possible not to offend the locals, to stick together, and to keep a low profile in the area. I'm already lying to everyone about my Sunni background, and my neighbourhood in Baghdad. I'm even contemplating faking prayers and acting even more pious than the rest of them. heh. Let's just see how this turns out.
We're still waiting to see how it turns out, but the good news is that Zeyad no longer needs to consider faking prayer five times a day.

UPDATE: Mojo informs me that Shia Muslims pray three times a day while Sunni Muslims pray five times a day. So if Zeyad had actually prayed five times a day down near Basra, everyone would have guessed his Sunni background.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Let's Catch a Wave!

UPDATED: May 18, 2008

Since Shaqawa and Mohammed (Last of Iraqis) have started blogging in the last few months, I've been wondering whether they belong to the third or perhaps the fourth wave of Iraqi bloggers. Konfused Kid suggested that we order them by year of appearance and that seems reasonable to me.


Salam Pax -- September, 2002.


Ghaith Abdul-Ahad -- June, 2003.
Nawar (Ishtar Talking) -- July, 2003.
Riverbend -- August, 2003.
Zeyad -- October, 2003.
Kurdo -- October, 2003.
Fayrouz -- October, 2003.
Ihath -- October, 2003
Omar, Mohammed, and Ali Fadhil -- November, 2003.
AYS -- November, 2003.
Hammorabi Sam -- November, 2003.
Alaa -- November, 2003.
Firas -- November, 2003.
Nabil -- November, 2003.
Faiza Jarrar (family blog) -- December, 2003
Khalid Jarrar -- December, 2003.
Sarmad -- December, 2003.


Liminal -- January, 2004.
Majid Jarrar -- February, 2004.
Raed Jarrar -- March, 2004.
Ibn Alrafidain -- June, 2004.
Najma -- June, 2004.
Sara -- June, 2004.
Iraq Pundit -- July, 2004.
Kurdistan Bloggers Union (Dilnareen et al.) -- July, 2004.
HNK -- July, 2004.
Raghda -- July, 2004.
Salam Pax (Fat Whiner) -- August, 2004.
Rose -- August, 2004.
Anarki-13 -- August, 2004.
Nancy (Beth Nahrain) -- August, 2004.
Neurotic Iraqi Wife -- August, 2004.
Shaggy -- September, 2004
Ali Fadhil (Free Iraqi) -- December, 2004.


Dr. Truth Teller -- January, 2005.
Hassan (Average Iraqi) -- February, 2005.
Ahmad (Iraqi Expat) -- March, 2005.
Morbid Smile -- April, 2005.
Sunshine -- April, 2005.
Sooni -- April, 2005.
Akba -- April, 2005.
Salam Adil (Asterism) -- May, 2005.
Mama (Sunshine's mother) -- July, 2005.
Iraqi Roulette -- July, 2005.
Konfused Kid -- July, 2005.
Omar (24) -- August, 2005.
Treasure of Baghdad -- August, 2005.
Caesar of Pentra -- September, 2005.
Attawie -- September, 2005.
Still Alive (My Letters to America) -- September, 2005.
Iraqi Lord -- November, 2005.


Eye Raki -- February, 2006.
Hala -- February, 2006.
Chikitita -- March, 2006.
Saminkie (Colors of Mind / Skies) -- April, 2006
Gilgamesh (Into the Sun) -- June, 2006.
Marshmallow 26 -- August, 2006.
Mix Max -- September, 2006.
Iraqi Mojo -- October, 2006.
A & E Iraqi -- November, 2006.
Iraqi Atheist -- December, 2006.
M.H.Z. -- December, 2006.


Zappy -- January, 2007.
BlogIraq -- February, 2007
Sheko Meko -- March, 2007.
Shaqawa -- April, 2007.
Great Baghdad -- April, 2007.
Kassakhoon -- April, 2007.
Mohammed (Last of Iraqis) -- May, 2007.
Bookish (Mosul) -- June, 2007.
Gilgamesh X -- September, 2007.


Baghdadentist -- January, 2008.
Iraqi Translator -- March, 2008.
Sam (Interps Life) -- April, 2008.
Touta -- October, 2008.


If I have missed anyone, let me know on the comments page and I'll add them.

Also, if you see any patterns or distinct waves of bloggers, let us know.


Around two years ago Hassan (Average Iraqi) researched the early history of the Iraqi blogosphere. It is an excellent introduction, but it is current only up to November 11, 2005.

Iraqi Bloggers: From Pax to Sanyora.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

WWPSD - What Would Patrick Swayze Do?

In the 1984 film Red Dawn, eight teenagers from a Colorado High School football team escape a Cuban/Soviet invasion to take to the hills and fight the invaders and occupiers of the United States.

Brad Savage was nominated for a Young Artist Award for "Best Young Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Musical, Comedy, Adventure or Drama", whatever that means, for his role as "Danny". However, the film wasn't well regarded, even in its day. For example, an undated & unsigned review of the film by TV Guide concludes with "RED DAWN is simply too simplistic and inept to be taken seriously."

Despite this, I have noticed that the film has been frequently shown on the AMC channel as of late. Heck, you have five chances to catch the movie in the next ten days alone.

It makes me wonder: is someone trying to make sure we get an opportunity to see how Americans like "Jed" (Patrick Swayze) might act in the face of a foreign invasion and occupation? Would somebody actually try to equate this with a "Resistance" in Iraq that has some domestic and international sympathy behind it?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Fatal Glass of Beer

On March 3, 1933, just three weeks before the US Congress repealed the 18th Amendment, which had prohibited the manufacture, transport, and sale of alcohol, Mack Sennett and W.C. Fields released "The Fatal Glass of Beer," a 20-minute sendup of the moralizing melodramas that were popular at the time. There are two aspects of that film that surely resonate in Baghdad today.

First of all, Fields' famous sardonic refrain about the weather in Alaska -- "Ain't fit for man nor beast" -- unfortunately could describe the general lethality of the dusty, riverine capital of Iraq. And second, the very title -- "Fatal Glass of Beer" -- has a literal interpretation in Iraq that Sennett and Fields never intended.

Many countries have experimented with prohibition (see link for a good overview), and in Iraq today the issue is both lively and, as Great Baghdad discusses (Drinking Beer in Baghdad), very deadly. If you want to grab a glass of beer in Baghdad, Great Baghdad offers a quick and dirty guide. With an ironic edge that Fields himself would have approved of, Great Baghdad writes:
Right after the war there was [so] much freedom that street vender's would have a scotch with rocks ready for you that you can pick it up while driving down the Aa'adhmyia Cornish. But now since there is a Government dominated by Islamists extremists ( Sonnies and Shia) and parliament which more dominated by Islamists groups ( also Sonnies and Shiat) we will never have a legislation nor an executive power which will guarantee the Iraqi thirsty man have a cold beer in a hot summer day without Having to build a concrete Blast Barrier around him.
My translation of this image has an Iraqi man taking of sip of his cold brew on a blast-furnace-hot day in Baghdad, sitting on a beach chair and surrounded by ten-foot-high concrete blast barriers.

Can't you picture it?


If you'd like to watch "The Fatal Glass of Beer," go here.

While not my favorite short of his, "The Fatal Glass of Beer," placed in the context of the early thirties, stands out for its odd humor. My two favorite Fields movies are "It's a Gift" (1934) and "The Bank Dick" (1940).


Of the handful of Iraqi bloggers that are now studying in the United States, I think Morbid Smile is the only one pursuing a Master's degree in English Literature. Until yesterday's entry, we hadn't heard from Morbido in a couple months. It turns out that she's been deep into researching and writing papers, doing some traveling (to Miami and NYC), visiting an American high school, and even attending an American-Syrian wedding. Here Morbido talks about Miami:
I met more than one hunderd Fulbrighters from all around the world, people that I never thought of meeting one day. It was cool, and I enjoyed my time alot even though we had to stay inside the hotel for most of the time due to the heavy seminar schedule! But there was enough time to walk on the beach since the hotel itself was in South Beach facing the wonderful view of the ocean and the open sky. It was one of my little dreams that came true :) The hotel is called Miami Beach Resort and Spa, it wasn't the biggest hotel for sure but we envaded the whole place wearing our blue Fulbright T-Shirts with tages that have our names, U.S. university and country. One of the rooms that we had most of the seminar sessions at was called the Stars Room, or something like that ( I don't quite remember) and it was located on the 82nd floor. Later we were told that Frank Sinatra used to sing and have his concerts in this room!
Stop by and see how she's doing and say hi.


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