Friday, July 30, 2004

More Iraqi blogs

An impressive number of new blogs written by Iraqis have been popping up here and there lately. Less by expatriates (some of whom are starting to sound extremely detached and unrealistic) and more by Iraqis living the precarious situation on the ground.

Emigre at Iraq Blog Count has done an admirable job in keeping up with the latest blogs, so I will be mainly following on her steps.

First we have the pride of the Iraqi blogosphere, 5 young Iraqi bloggers. The first being Najma, a 17 year old rising star from Mosul, who blogs about her daily life, dreams and fears. She also regularly posts some good pictures.

Her younger sister hnk who is running a drawing contest in MS Paint on her blog (in which I participated!).

Their 13 year old cousin Raghda blogs from Baghdad and wants to be the 'best younger blog'. She posts funny pictures of cats, bunnies, and frogs. For some inexplicable reason her blog brings a dose of happiness and hope to one's heart, maybe it's the pure innocence that radiates from between the lines and photos.

Zena, another 13 year old, also blogs from Baghdad and posts charming poetry in Arabic.

Last but not least, we have Ferid, a 20 year old humourous college student from Baghdad who posts Iraqi football news and chooses to name his blog the 'losers blog'. He promises to bring his friends online as well.

Moving on to more serious blogs. Ladybird has been blogging from the Netherlands for a while, she has history posts and some on the Iraqihealth system.

Ahmed in a series of letters to his friends abroad blogs about Life in Baghdad.

Abu Khaleel, a highly energetic blogger, has 6 blogs, 2 of which he says he will maintain regularly. A glimpse of Iraq, US mistakes in Iraq, Disgruntled Americans, Rapid Democracy in Iraq, Meethaq for Iraq, and Iraqi letter to America. He has some valuable and worthwhile suggestions on how to implement true representative democracy in Iraq which I hope would be noticed by the 'right' people.

Ayad, an Iraqi American, describes his experiences in Baghdad during his visit.

Sarah, another Iraqi expat, blogs her general thoughts on Iraq here.

New Kurdish blogs here, Karda, Kardox, and the Kurdistan Bloggers Union.

All the mentioned blogs have been added to the sidebar. Take some time to visit them, they are worth it.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

According to this report, the 3 soldiers who forced Zaydun and his cousin Marwan into the Tigris at Sammara resulting in the drowning of Zaydun are now facing charges of manslaughter, assault, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy. A fourth soldier was charged with assault and making false official statements. A court hearing has been scheduled next Thursday, and further charges may be waiting the soldiers. Here is Reuter's story, and I have been told that the story was mentioned today on several news channels, nothing in the Arab channels yet.

This following an Army CID investigation which took about 6 months. Zaydun and Marwan returning from a business trip at Baghdad were arrested just outside Sammara minutes before the night curfew last January, they were released at the Tharthar dam gates on the Tigris and were forced into the river by the soldiers even though Zaydun pleaded with them that he couldn't swim. Zaydun drowned and Marwan who was picked up by the Sammara ICDC force survived to tell the story. Zaydun's corpse was recovered from the river days later, his family was denied an investigation so his mother wrote a letter to president Bush which was published on this blog. Days later a full investigation commenced, press reporters and journalists picked up the story.

For the full story go here (scroll up for later entries and make sure to check the comments section), for the divided reaction of the blogosphere which ranged from flat denial, incredulity, doubt, strong personal attacks to support, understanding, and promises to help go here.

Zaydun's family made it clear from the beginning that they only seeked full justice, and they repeatedly refused any kind of financial reparation. They gave up ages ago but I hope this will satisfy them.

Thanks to everyone who sent letters to their officials and congressmen, thanks to the people and soldiers who wrote to me and to Zaydun's family expressing their support and encouragement, and thanks to the wonderful bloggers whose persistence and support made this possible.

Update: Yes, it's all because of those damn anti-malarial drugs. The mystery is solved. I also think that Iraqi insurgents are killing people because the heat has gone to their heads.

Blind justice

Watching the dreaded face of Saddam Hussein on tv was a climactic experience. For the first time in Iraqi (and Arab) history a ruler is brought to court to face charges. I admit it feels strange and the mixed feelings are impossible to describe.

The majority of Iraqis have expressed their desire to see him hanged publicly as soon as possible to mark an end to his era and to move on. A few said they didn't care anymore and that they were more interested in their future, and an even smaller group (from the Sunni areas) said they were against the trial. The Arab media (Al-Jazeera to be exact) focused on the last group. They already had a reporter at Al-Oja, Saddam's home village near Tikrit, interviewing members of Saddam's tribe to 'prove' that Iraqis were against trying their 'leader'. Today, they reported a small rally of about 50 kids in Sammara carrying posters of Saddam demonstrating against the trial of the 'honourable hero'. Al-Jazeera described them as 'crowds of demonstrators' even though the opposite was very obvious.

However, many Iraqis were disappointed in the secrecy surrounding the whole procedures. Only 3 minutes of the half hour session were displayed with audio, the room was apparently not designed to be a courtroom, and something was definitely not 'right' about the whole thing. The judge looked young and a bit nervous, the back of his head was glistening with sweat, and he stopped just short from addressing Saddam by Sayyidi (as he was always addressed before). I admire his bravery though. Saddam also shouldn't have been allowed the opportunity to give a sensational speech. I believe he made a fatal mistake by defending his invasion of Kuwait and calling Kuwaitis 'dogs'. The list of charges also raise some questions. There are no
penalties for crimes against humanity in Iraqi criminal law as far as I know, so there is some confusion here.

Maybe the new government is gauging the reaction of the Iraqi street, but a live public and transparent trial was promised, though I doubt anything is going to convince the enemies of the new Iraq who are now clinging to human rights excuses. They say the court is illegitimate. Where they legitimate under Saddam? If yes, then Saddam is going to be judged by his own Revolutionary Command Council amended laws, according to which he should face the death penalty for desertion and abandoning the battlefield when he was General Commander of Armed Forces last April.

Let's see how this unfolds.

Thursday, July 01, 2004


I was on the road back to Baghdad on the 28th when the transfer of authority to the Iraqi interim government was announced. Since I was exhausted and starving from the long road, I was therefore more interested in gobbling up my lunch of tishreeb and rice than the ceremonies on tv at the bustling restaurant near Kut. I thought it was a wise decision to announce the event two days before it was planned so I wasn't much surprised, though some people argue that it spoiled the whole thing. Actually, it took the unguarded Arab media by complete surprise, and I swear I could notice their confusion since it was very obvious that they hadn't yet prepared anything to downplay the significance of the event.

We were stopped several times on the road at IP and National Guard checkpoints, and our luggage meticulously searched much to the impatience of our grumbling driver. The last time I was on this road our taxi was tailed by armed Mi'dan bandits in a shiny Nissan pickup truck. Taxi drivers have nicknamed the truck 'aljamra alkhabitha' (the malignant carbuncle or Anthrax) because it can catch up with any vehicle. We were close to Qal'at Salih south of Ammara and the speed gauge of our 92 Caprice read 200 km/h, yet the pickup persistently followed us for a few minutes until we noticed an ICDC patrol. The bandits slowed down gradually while we drived along with the ICDC patrol, they eventually turned around probably to search for an easier target.

In Basrah, people were much more welcoming and optimistic regarding the sovereignty handover. In Baghdad, however, people seem dubious especially since American patrols continue to roam the streets. Yesterday morning there were clashes in Adhamiyah between Americans and insurgents, though some say it was an armed gang. In another incident later on the same day, some people armed with RPG's and AK-47's (apparently looters) surrounded the Adhamiya bank which was guarded by an IP and FPS force. The looters shouted to the police that they were here to attack the Americans so it was better for them to leave the area because they did not intend to harm them, nice trick. The IP responded by shooting at the looters, killing two of them and arresting six others. The disturbing bit was that the police dragged the dead looters and violently beat the others.

Other than this incident I haven't heard of any other attempts to loot government property. In fact the performance of the IP until now is encouraging, a number of gangs were surrounded and arrested at Al-Battawiyeen by an Iraqi SWAT force, and people claim that the police used satellite images to locate the gangs, such rumours do have a benefit though. Another widespread and preposterous rumour is that Ayad Allawi has been showing up at IP stations and executing criminals himself, and I have heard this one from a very large number of people.

Baghdad looked 'normal' today even though the 30th was announced a holiday. Traffic was the same as everyday and no curfew took place contrary to what many predicted, except in Najaf where a truck full of explosives was intercepted by IP and three purported Qaeda members were arrested, one of them a Libyan who had just entered Iraq from Syria and the other two were Iraqis. Overall, I can say that Baghdadis are cautiously optimistic about the new developments, they have postponed their judgement on the government until they sense some real changes on the ground. Security remains the primary concern, and if the present measures continue I can say that it would improve drastically. I really hope we would see less and less American troops on the streets in the next few days.

Longlive Iraq