Monday, April 27, 2009

A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2005

Year in Review: 2005

For Iraqis, 2005 was a year in which they participated in two elections and a referendum. They voted on January 30, October 15, and December 15. The first vote, on January 30, was held despite the explicit warnings from Al Qaeda in Iraq not to attempt this step toward democracy. Looking back at the reports being filed in the weeks leading up to the election, one notes that no one was optimistic about the outcome, often with good reason. According to Dexter Filkins of the New York Times, he and his colleagues had started an office pool to see who could predict the percentage of Iraqis who would vote; the precentages being considered were between fifteen and twenty-four percent. By the end of the day, however, all observers were impressed by the courage of the Iraqi citizens and the long lines of Iraqis who walked to the polling stations to vote. Estimates of the actual turnout vary between fifty and sixty percent. The photos of Iraqis with purple fingers, inked at the voting centers to show that they had voted, were spread around the world.

At the end of the day, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Stanger, one of the Americans who had helped provide security, wrote:
Even though today was a great day for Iraq, the Iraqis took their lumps. There were 6 car bombs in Iraq today, 2 of them in Baghdad. One I believe did more for Iraqi moral than any other event I that I have ever witnessed here. A suicide car bomber drove up to a polling site, which was not to far from us, and blew up. The bomb did not kill anybody but the bomber himself. After the bomb went off the Iraqi voters calmly walked out of the polling site and spit on the remains of the suicide bomber.
On October 15, Iraqis went to the polls to vote on a referendum for the new Constitution; it was ratified by a wide margin. And then, on December 15, there was a general election to seat the new 275-member Parliament. The United Iraqi Alliance ticket won 128 seats, the largest share of any of the parties, followed by the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan with 53, Iraqi Accord Front with 44, and the Iraqi National List with 25.

By voting three times in the course of the year, the Iraqi people had landed three body blows to Al Qaeda in Iraq, but battlegrounds are kinetic, as they say, and the response would soon come. Already back in 2003, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had begun targeting Shiite Iraqis, for sectarian reasons and in the hope of fomenting a civil war between Sunnis and Shia that would bring the entire country down. In February, 2006, with the bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, Zarqawi's dream had its best chance of becoming reality.


New Iraqi Bloggers in 2005:

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.
Michomeme -- September, 2005.
Still Alive (My Letters to America) -- September, 2005.
Iraqi Lord -- November, 2005.

In 2005 a new crop of Iraqi bloggers appeared. Instead of the architects and dentists of the first wave, the second wave was a mixed group of college students or recent graduates.

Morbid Smile, a student of English literature in Baghdad, started blogging in April. She also started a photoblog that she kept from October, 2005, to June, 2006. On September 2, 2006, she arrived in the United States with a Fulbright scholarship. For the next two years, she studied for and then completed her Master's Degree, writing a thesis on Jane Austen. She returned to Iraq in September of 2008, but has not yet returned to blogging.

Konfused Kid, a fan of heavy-metal at the time, began blogging in July. During the breakdown in security in Baghdad, Konfused Kid decided to move to Jordan. Later, while in Amman, he began to reassess his musical tastes and began to reject heavy-metal, turning more toward tradtional Iraqi music. In February, 2008, he announced that he was no longer "Konfused Kid." His new name was "Abbas Hawazin." He also changed the name of his blog to "Catharsis." Still in Jordan today, Konfused Kid/Abbas Hawazin continues to blog on a fairly regular basis.

Omar Fekeiki (24 Steps to Liberty) and Bassam Sebti (Treasure of Baghdad) were both working for The Washington Post when they began blogging in August. Omar Fekeiki received a visa from the US to attend the graduate school in journalism at Berkeley. While in college, Omar blogged frequently and his comments pages were a forum for many discussions. He stopped blogging, however, on April 15, 2008. That May, at his graduation ceremony, Omar gave a commencement speech and then looked into the audience for Ban Hameed, a woman he had met eight years earlier in Baghdad.
Fekeiki told the audience he had one more thing to say, and then told her that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. They embraced, she sobbed and he gave her a ring. Although this came as a surprise to her, he had been reasonably sure she'd say yes. "I'm a good reporter," he said Monday. "I did research before I did it."
Since then, IBC has not heard anything about Omar Fekeiki. Bassam Sebti (Treasure of Baghdad) also came to the United States on a student visa, attending St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, where he completed a Master's in Writing. Today he is living and working in Washington, D.C., where he is the Arabic Editor for the International Journalists' Network; he blogs occasionally and has a Twitter account.

Like Fayrouz, Ahmad (Iraqi Expat) was an Iraqi living abroad (London) when he began blogging, offering his comments on events happening back in Iraq; he stopped blogging on August 22, 2005. Salam Adil, another exile, started a blog that focused on summarizing the differing views of the Iraqi bloggers and keeping the editorial commentary to a minimum. Never a prolific blogger, his blog posts these days are even more infrequent than usual. While many Iraqi bloggers were focused on political issues, Caesar of Pentra, like Shaggy, wrote about his daily life and his own concerns. He relocated to Jordan for a while but then returned to Baghdad. He is currently trying to finish his undergraduate degree and doesn't update his blog very often.


Also in 2005 there were three American bloggers that we blogrolled and to whom we began to link. Michael Yon, an ex-Special Forces soldier, and Michael J. Totten, holding an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, began blogging about and eventually reporting from Iraq and the Middle East. The third, Steven Vincent, was an arts journalist living in New York City on September 11, 2001. What happened that day would end up completely changing the focus of his writing. After two trips to Iraq, one in the fall of 2003 and the other in the spring of 2004, Vincent returned to New York City and published "In the Red Zone," part memoir and part analysis of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Through his publisher, Spence, Vincent began a blog also called "In the Red Zone," writing his first entry on December 2, 2004.

Although he worked as a professional journalist, Vincent immediately recognized the significance and potential of bloggers. Looking back at the results of the vote on January 30, 2005, Vincent wrote:
I can't imagine how the liberation of Iraq would have progressed without the hundreds, the thousands, of blogs that cut through the anti-war bias of the MSM. By giving a voice to people and viewpoints which otherwise would have gone silent, bloggers helped articulate the cause of democracy and civil rights that lies at the base of this conflict.
Early on Vincent blogrolled Iraqi Bloggers Central and began linking to our entries, just as we did at IBC. Steven and I regularly met each other on his comments pages and compared notes. I had been following all of his blog entries written on his second trip to Iraq when I read one morning that he had been killed in Basra. It was a shock from which I have not yet really recovered.

It is difficult to choose a single blog entry from Steven Vincent to give you an idea of his spirit and compassion, but I think this one gets very close:

January 29, 2005. "Prayers for Iraq." Steven Vincent, written on the eve of the Iraqi elections on January 30, 2005.


Complete Series:

Part One. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2003.
Part Two. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2004.
Part Three. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2005.
Part Four. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2006.
Part Five. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2007.
Part Six. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2008-09.


Selected Blog Entries from IBC:

CP = Check out comments page for that entry.

January 2, 2005. Emigre to Iraqis: Stop the Vote! Jeffrey. CP
January 5, 2005. Husayn to Zarqawi: Die You Dirty Dog. Jeffrey.
January 22, 2005. If Sarah Boxer Were a Blogger.... Jeffrey.
January 30, 2005. Iraqis' Historic Vote! Jeffrey. CP
February 4, 2005. Khalid Adjusts Tin-Foil Hat for Better Reception. Jeffrey. CP
February 17, 2005. Ripped Blue Jeans and Tennies. Jeffrey.
February 21, 2005. We Are Iraq The Model Nation. Mister Ghost / Omar Fadhil.
February 24, 2005. The In T View: Fayrouz Hancock. Mister Ghost / Fayrouz Hancock.
March 12, 2005. The In T View: Kurdo Unbound! Mister Ghost / Kurdo.
March 16, 2005. The In T View: Neurotic Iraqi Wife ~ Not So Neurotic After All. Mister Ghost / NIW.
April 25, 2005. The In T View: Ferid The Great, Iraqi Renaissance Man. Mister Ghost / Ferid.
May 3, 2005. The In T View: Iraq The Model's Omar - Blogging's Modest Superstar. Mister Ghost / Omar Fadhil.
May 5, 2005. Steven Vincent Reports from Umm Qasr. Jeffrey.
May 5, 2005. The In T View: Sandmonkey - No Monkeying Around For This Rising Star Of The Blogosphere. Mister Ghost / Sam Sandmonkey.
May 10, 2005. Steven Vincent Reports from Umm Qasr. Jeffrey.
May 12, 2005. The In T View: Sam From Hammorabi. Mister Ghost / Hammorabi Sam.
May 24, 2005. Iraqis Examine Saddam's Undies. Jeffrey.
May 28, 2005. Hope in the Middle East? Jeffrey. CP
May 30, 2005. The In T View: Kat Proudly From The Midwest. Mister Ghost / Kat.
June 16, 2005. Are Iraqis Crocodiles? Jeffrey. CP
June 18, 2005. Faiza in America. Jeffrey. CP
June 30, 2005. The In T View: Akbar From Iraq Rising And So Is He. Mister Ghost / Akbar.
July 5, 2005. The In T View: Ahmad From Iraqi Expat. Mister Ghost / Ahmad.
July 14, 2005. What Faiza Learned from Her Summer Vacation to America. Jeffrey.
July 26, 2005. Snooping through the Archives. Jeffrey.
July 27, 2005. In Basra, Steven Vincent Hears an Echo from Graham Greene. Jeffrey.
August 3, 2005. Steven Vincent Killed in Iraq. Jeffrey. CP
August 4, 2005. Raed Jarrar and Ayman Al-Zawahri Together Again! Jeffrey.
August 12, 2005. Jeffrey Tries to Join Snarkaholics Anonymous. Jeffrey.
August 26, 2005. The Cruelty of Mercy: The Trouble With the Sunni Arabs & The Potential For Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq. CMAR II.
August 31, 2005. The In T View: Ali Fadhil - Cast Off From Blogging Heaven, He Found His Truth Elsewhere. Mister Ghost / Ali Fadhil
September 27, 2005. Ba'athist by the Bay. Jeffrey. CP
September 29, 2005. Who is Niki Akhavan? Jeffrey.
October 12, 2005. Zawahiri Letter Translated...the Jihadi PR Machine. CMAR II.
October 13, 2005. New Mongrel on the Block. Jeffrey.
October 20, 2005. Throwing Down the Gauntlet with Khalid Jarrar. CMAR II. CP
October 23, 2005. The Truth about Iraq and the Iraqis? Jeffrey.
October 28, 2005. Speak, Wise Sandmonkey! Jeffrey.
November 1, 2005. Ghaith's Return to Iraq. Jeffrey. CP
November 13, 2005. Allbritton Beaten Up by "Peace Activists"! Jeffrey.
November 17, 2005. White Heat. CMAR II. CP
November 21, 2005. The Blood Just Won't Come Off Sites' Hands. Jeffrey. CP
November 28, 2005. Saddam's Torturer: Working In Iraq Interior Ministry. CMAR II.
December 5, 2005. The Saddam Trial II. CMAR II. CP
December 7, 2005. Saddam III. CMAR II. CP
December 9, 2005. Kudzu in the Lead Graph. Jeffrey. CP
December 22, 2005. The In T View: 24 Steps To Liberty, Iraqi Journalist. Mister Ghost / Omar Fekeiki.
December 23, 2005. Crunching the Numbers. Jeffrey. CP
December 24, 2005. Iraq by Numbers. Jeffrey.


Selected Articles, Blog Entries, and Documents from 2005:

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, "Bleeding the Weak," Guardian, January 3, 2005.

Nasser Flayih Hasan, "How the Left Betrayed My Country - Iraq," FrontPage Magazine (online), January 3, 2005.

Sam Sandmonkey, "The 7 Rules of the A.P.U.," Rantings of a Sandmonkey (website), January 6, 2005.

Wendell Steavenson, "Election Day in Najaf," Slate, January 30, 2005.

Youssef M. Ibrahim, "New Kind of Awe in the Mideast," USA Today, January 31, 2005.

Neil Prakash, "SPC ROBY: 1, IED: 1," Armor Geddon (website), January 31, 2005.

Cecile Landman, "Baghdad Blogger Salam Pax Talks to Streamtime," Streamtime (website), February 10, 2005. (Interview with Salam Pax -- text/audio)

Omar Fadhil, "The Magic of Pajamas," Iraq the Model, February 16, 2005.

Akba, "The Day I Met Papa Saddam," Iraq Rising, April 29, 2005.

Mark Memmott, 'Milbloggers' are typing their place in history," USA Today, May 11, 2005.

Akba, "A Nut-House Called Iraq," Iraq Rising (website), June 13, 2005.

Steven Vincent, "The Stringer," National Review Online, June 14, 2005.

Fayrouz Hancock, "Stop Whining and Start Rebuilding," Fayrouz in Dallas (website), June 20, 2005.

Steven Vincent, "Fallen Virtue," In the Red Zone (website), June 24, 2005.

Ahmad, "State of Rage," Iraqi Expat (website), July 7, 2005. (Response to Terrorism in London)

Sooni, "Voting Photos from Baghdad," Sooni: Expressing Myself, October 15, 2005.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, "'We don't need al-Qaida'," Guardian, October 27, 2005.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The New Sunni Jihad: 'A Time for Politics', Washington Post, October 27, 2005.

Bassam Sebti, "Enemies!! Treasure of Baghdad's Diary," Treasure of Baghdad, November 8, 2005. CP (Bassam Sebti and Omar Fekeiki excerpt from e-mails sent to Riverbend)

Frontline (PBS), "Interview: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad," Fall, 2005.

Salam Pax, "Iraq Restaurant Bomb Kills Dozens," Shut Up You Fat Whiner, November 11, 2005.


Books Published in 2005:

Capt. Jason Conroy and Ron Martz, Heavy Metal: A Tank Company's Battle to Baghdad.
John Coopman, McCoy's Marines: Darkside to Baghdad.
Yaroslav Trofimov, Faith at War: A Journey to the Frontlines of Islam, from Baghdad to Timbuktu.
Riverbend, Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq.
Anthony Shadid, Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War.
George Packer, Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq.
Bing West, No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle of Fallujah.
Colby Buzzel, My War: Killing Time in Iraq.
Nathanial Fick, One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine.
Matthew Bogdanos, Thieves of Baghdad.


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