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<nettime> 'Blogging with the Iraqi bloggers -> www.Streamtime.org
Cecile Landman on Tue, 21 Jun 2005 13:00:30 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> 'Blogging with the Iraqi bloggers -> www.Streamtime.org

Streamtime - Blogging with the Bloggers 
cecile | 15 June, 2005 10:45 (original post at www.streamtime.org) 

A year of working with Iraqi bloggers

While in the first months of Streamtimes' existence, from the end of June '04
announcements were posted
<http://streamtime.org//index.php?op=Default&Date=200406&blogId=1> about our
streaming radio-transmissions, starting from Halabja, and subsequently from Baghdad
<http://streamtime.org//index.php?op=Default&Date=200407&blogId=1> , Streamtime
transmissions from Iraq seemed near to impossible after August. For obvious reasons
Jo and Salam came back to Europe and Michel also at the end of August '04. 
Training interested Iraqis in Iraq in the use of the streaming software needed more
time than had been possible while present in Iraq. Transmissions from Iraq stopped
after two attempts to let the people in Baghdad who had had lessons
<http://streamtime.org//index.php?op=ViewArticle&articleId=38&blogId=1> and worked
together with Michel to stream at the hours that we had taken as our regular ones,
Wednesday and Sunday afternoon through July and August.  We decided to concentrate
from Europe on creating networks with Iraqis in Iraq and the Diaspora. Then if
possibilities would widen up for being on the ground in Iraq, we would probably
have more options for the Streamtime project inside Iraq. First contacts with the
bloggers, in Iraq as well as outside were created by linking various bloggers to
www.streamtime.org. The linked bloggers were in sync informed about the linking,
and mindfully asked about their opinion on Streamtime. The Iraqi bloggers soon
proved to be incredibly interesting for Streamtime, since they give their insights,
information and stories by own initiative, and by doing so, they are making an
indisputable move outward.  Although in the beginning with some hesitation, but
latterly with growing congruity Streamtime reposted a near daily selection of the
blogs. Quite a few bloggers immediately started linking to Streamtime. Blog-wise we
existed! Some bloggers asked Streamtime to cooperate with their blogs, in
together-postings. Thereafter they were carefully considered as near
friends/correspondents of Streamtime that tries to stay in contact with the
bloggers as much as possible. And as an unanswered e-mail can lead to frustration
and feelings of loneliness for people in the 'connected' world, what can an
unanswered mail mean inside Iraq?  It can't be different: the -emotional-
involvement with a project like Streamtime increases day by day. It is not possible
to not worry about the safety of the people you have a growing communication with.
Like many other 'projects' focusing on Iraq it is not so easy to measure success or
failure, and a year under these circumstances and the given developments is to be
considered a short period. It can be said that Streamtime has met sympathy and has
indeed played a role in broadening platforms and networking, by blogs connecting
and relating to people and projects who concentrate on understanding and improving
the often complicated lives and viewpoints from Iraq.  In a continuous -albeit a
bit bumpy- 'streaming' movement further contacting and networking progressed, with
some attempts to stimulate exchanges between Iraqis, as was the case with Raed
Jarrar, Iranian Niki and Iraqi 'Liminal Symbol'. They knew each other through the
web, but met face-to-face by way of Streamtime. During the International
Documentary Filmfestival of Amsterdam 2004 some effort was made to let Iraqi
filmers/poets Sinan Antoon and Bassam Haddad meet with Liminal. (They made the
documentary 'About Baghdad' <http://www.aboutbaghdad.com/> in the summer of 2003,
in Iraq.)  Making contact with the bloggers is sometimes difficult; for
understandable reasons distrust sets a heavy tone. Only a few blog under real
names; most keep secret identities. Certainly not in the last place this has to do
with the direct dangers in -relation to- Iraq itself. Most blog in English, the
fact that only about 5% of the Iraqi population speaks English is significant. The
choice to blog in English is two-sided, the dangers of being discovered while
blogging in Arabic can be bigger. And the Internet is until now mainly an English
world. But more Arabic blogs are coming to exist.  Reading 'comment section' under
the blogs 'teaches' a lot about the Iraqi bloggosphere, which suffers the handicap
of quick, rough and banal aggression. When the least trace of criticism is made
regarding the American policy, or army, the returning question is if the specific
blogger rather would have Saddam in his old nasty power. Comments often come from
quite right-wing Americans, although not exclusively, and these bitter, violent
'verbal' discussions could often be read. It is a serious 'handicap', since too
often it becomes nearly impossible to have constructive and creative discussions in
those -narrowing- digital spaces.  However: blogging does prove to be an ideal way
of taking possession of the freedom of communication whereas at the same time it
provides for security and anonymity. The Iraqi bloggosphere is very diverse,
opinions can strongly differ, or be a 100% contrasting. Seen Iraq's recent history
in which diversity was forbidden and hidden, this is the challenge: develop
differences into force. (This sounds too nice to be easy).  The contacts that do
exist, or well, some of course never replied to e-mails, and some ceased to respond
after a while. And others came in again. New blogs started
<http://zennobia.blogspot.com/> . Different generations of some families even
created their 'familyblog' <http://mosulfamily.blogspot.com/> in which information
from Mosul and Baghdad comes together. New contacts were and are attempted.  Some
bloggers are favorites. Because they write so beautifully, or funny about their
harsh information that it can make you laugh, loudly. Or they hang tough and
stubborn onto a specific subject concerning the Iraqi situation, producing a stream
of in depth articles, which can create nice discussions (with here and there the
aggressive off-spin).  All in all it can be said that the bloggers altogether
create a network of interconnected information that enriches the knowledge about
people's lives and opinions in a country where Big world-politics simply can't
consider people as individuals anymore.  War machine mechanisms do eliminate
peoples emerging personal and collective hopes. Pleased to meet some of the
bloggers: Liminal Symbol <http://www.shlonkombakazay.blogspot.com/> came to meet
Streamtime after extensive mail exchange. Earlier he had tempted to create the
'Iraqi Agora' <http://iraqibloggers.blogspot.com/> , a forum for all Iraqi bloggers
with the purpose to stimulate information exchange and discussions between Iraqi
bloggers in an open web-stage. He left the project, but later on, after the
assassination of Rafiq Hariri he started (has some roots in Lebanon) The Lebanese
Blogger Forum <http://lebanonheartblogs.blogspot.com/> , and with success. The
Lebanese bloggers after some months of cooperative digitizing kept a meeting in
Lebanon, to know each other and discuss various -Lebanese- issues.  On indication
of Streamtime Iraqi blogger Raed Jarrar <http://raedinthemiddle.blogspot.com/> was
invited to The Netherlands by the Dutch Journalist Association. Raed started to
blog on an early hour, together and in an exchange <http://dear_raed.blogspot.com/>
with Salam Pax. Seen the fact that Raed lives in Amman, some plans exist to do
workshops there with and about the streaming software used and developed by
Streamtime's Dyne;bolic <http://dynebolic.org/> people of Dyne.org
<http://www.dyne.org/> and Rastasoft <http://www.rastasoft.org/> . And thanks to
the Sicilian Freaknet <http://www.freaknet.org/index-nirva3.php> . In Amman live a
lot of Iraqis, and more arrive daily... it could be a good idea to take Streamtime
to Amman. Raed has done investigations throughout Iraq and created the counting of
Iraqi Civilian Casualties <http://civilians.info/iraq/> . And who doesn't remember
General Tommy Franks, of the US Central Command who had stated: ''We don't do body
counts''. Raed and his family (his mother and his two brothers' blog, Khalid from
Baghdad and Majid from Canada) organized medicinetransports to Falluja, after the
last violent big boost that had gone through the town.  Baghdad Dweller
<http://www.roadstoiraq.com/> comes from Baghdad, and lives in The Netherlands.
Visited Streamtime's activities in Amsterdam on more occasions, as on events with
Iraqi Poetry or music, streamed by Streamtime. Irregular contacts and house-visits
exist.  Abu Khaleel <http://iraquna.blogspot.com/> lives in Baghdad. Streamtime and
Abu enjoy a good friendship. It consists of exchange of a mix of gossip, jokes,
serious stuff and not at all serious information. It feels like good friends. When
at the end of January '05 Streamtime did a special 'Elections-stream' from
Amsterdam, with direct phone calls with Iraqis in Iraq and Diaspora, his telephone
did indeed work for the first time since the invasion, but as it turned out, just
for a few hours. Streamtime was the first to call him on that new working line:
"Welcome to the world, Abu!"  Emigre <http://iraqblogcount.blogspot.com/> in
Australia more or less 'supervises' the Iraq Blog Count. All Iraqi bloggers are
being linked to this site; it is the most complete existing overview. Emigre and
the active contributors from time to time suffer from real 'attacks' in the comment
sector. Serious rough talk and offenses were made, with the names of contributors
of IBC being hijacked and used which brought a lot of confusion. It looked as if
Emigre and some others had completely freaked out, out of the head so to say. But
then it turned out it wasn't her, but some 'troll'. Of course this heavily
frustrates any attempt to conversate or discuss. After a blog which criticizes
American politics and practices in Iraq is published, rough and banal comments are
a certainty.  The 'bad-comment-behavior' happens just about everywhere in the
bloggosphere, and it does have consequences for the information being -therefore
not- published. Some bloggers closed their comment sections, others avoid to ever
reading the reactions on their blogs again, and again others get angry or
disappointed and react accordingly.  For example the reactions on the pictures of a
student graduation party on Hassan's blog Average Iraqi
<http://aviraqi.blogspot.com/2005/04/war-isnt-everything.html> are very telling.
One of the pictures is of some installation made by students on a square of a
university of Baghdad. It is a representation of the Twin Towers with the planes
flying into them. Now you don't have to wrinkle and scratch your brain very much to
understand that this attack didn't have so much to do with Iraq in the first place,
but it was definitely a catalyst for toppling Saddam. And now Iraq is on the verge
of a civil war, and news from 'the zone' consists mainly of bombs, more bombs and
death and progressing separation between Sunni and Shia. The Twin Tower disaster as
such was a major event with major consequences for the Iraqi people (of course
without forgetting the direct victims of the attack, or the never-ending mess in
Afghanistan). Hassan is around twenty years. He grew up in the Saddamized Iraq.
Probably never knew anything else. The comments on the pictures he published on his
blog were, softly said, very rude, and no one who made them seemed to be capable of
thinking him- or herself in Hassan's place. After this, he closed the comment
section of his blog, and is not blogging that much anymore.  Free Writer
<http://afreewriter.blogspot.com/> in Mosul has started to blog not so long ago, in
English and Arabic. Soon contacts were created after he first asked us if he could
translate a Streamtime interview with Salam Pax into Arabic, after reading about it
on IBC. But then immediately he asked us if we could publish stories he would write
for Streamtime about Mosul and Iraq, in Arabic and in English. He is in trouble now
because the internet connection is too expensive, he has a lot of ideas and wants a
lot, but only small things are being realized. One step forward, two steps back. 
Salam Pax <http://justzipit.blogspot.com/> to our surprise had read all our mails,
and kept an eye on Streamtimes' whatabouts. He had started blogging in 2002, and
became the most famous blogger, not only of Iraq. (Not in Iraq). His writings are
like oxygen to many. He was in Rotterdam during the International Film festival,
where his film was shown; because in the meantime he had started video-blogging, or
'vlogging', for The Guardian and TV. He was interviewed by Streamtime in February
'05. Pax: ''HYPERLINK
"http://streamtime.org/index.php?op=ViewArticle&articleId=350&blogId=1"I would
never actually say many of the things I say in my weblogs, I say on my video blogs
or when I talk to you.
<http://streamtime.org/index.php?op=ViewArticle&articleId=350&blogId=1> I would
never go on the street in Baghdad and stand on a box and say: this is what I
believe in. I am too afraid! This is bad. Okay, it opened a little door, but it
doesn't let me to open it all. We still live within these confines, we still worry
about how what we say is going to be taken. And that is why I am worried if I kind
of go out of the Salam Pax persona. Because the things I said, the things I say,
not many people are going to be happy about it. I don't feel that brave to tell you
the truth. And this is sad, this is really, really very sad.''  All the bloggers,
obviously inside more than outside, clearly have to deal with excessive problems.
Varying from kidnaped family members who have to be bought free (kidnaping in Iraq
is mainly business), to problems with the blogging itself (no electricity or
connectivity), identity worries, distrust and insecurity, to other daily problems
like watersupply, no freedom of movement, violence. And it is frustrating 'to play
hide and seek with electricity and then afterwards also to write about it' as
writes AnaRki13
<http://come-getsome.blogspot.com/2005/06/episode-564862-new-post.html> Continuing
to work on the bloggersnetwork is essential, as pointed out earlier they are the
ones that by their own initiative make an indisputable movement towards 'other
worlds' by taking possession of modern means of comunication that have become
available, since just a such short time. Probably Streamtime can find ways with
bloggers in discovering how to transmit journalism, poetry, theaterplays, music,
from Iraq, and it's surroundings.  Indeed we have just started linking with
Bahraini <http://bahrainblogs.com/> , Kuwaiti <http://www.kuwaitblogs.com/> ,
Jordan (http://www.jordanplanet.net/) and Lebanon
<http://lebanonheartblogs.blogspot.com/> blogs. 

Cecile Landman + Streamtime, Amsterdam, June 15, 2005 

(To my pleasure I can add /20-6-05/ that blogger 'Average Iraqi' has
started blogging again from Baghdad and he has reopened his
commentsector just some days ago). 

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