jo van der spek on Tue, 11 May 2004 18:04:45 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-nl] Baghdad Diaries (updated)

  news from Tigris Woods project

  this is the updated version of my diaries from baghdad and basra, Iraq.
I was there from March 31st until April 15th, when I was forced to leave by 


Date: Fri, 9 Apr 2004 09:09:09 +0200 (CEST)
From: jo<AT>
Subject: diary from Baghdad

Full Moon in Baghdad
It is 23' past midnight, the last day (8th of April) has brought more 
fighting and more tension in every house. The streets of baghdad are getting

more and more empty, especially when the sun is gone, and the full moon has 
taken over. I am writing in the house of the Zayer family. Head is

Ismael Zayer, founder and editor-in-chief of Iraq's biggest newspaper Al 
Sabah, which means "morning", a newspaper caught between two fires: the

Americans and the muslim extremists, especially of mister Muqtada 
Al-SSsadr. His wife Anneke van Ammelrooy is a free lance journalist from the

Netherlands and chief of Civil Pillar, an agency that supports upcoming 
civil society projects, NGO's etc.
I just made a good interview with Anneke in Dutch and now I am coaching 
Dhafer doing her first recordings on my MD recorder. We are all in door,

and the guards come by every 15 minutes to check. Ismael today noticed a 
car with four armed men of Muqtada Al-SSsadr's men in black circling

the house. Other cars with men armed with rocket launchers on their 
shoulder stopped in broad daylight in front of the Al Sabah building, 

showing their manhood. In the press of Muqtada the attacks on Al Sabah, the 
threats become more violent. For them Al Sabah is the voice of evil,

of the new Moguls. Ismael tells me they have infiltrated in the print shop 
and half of the workers did not show up at all today, just like 6 of the

journalists. So the question becomes: will they be able to produce an issue 
at all?

After a few tries I talked with Sanja on the phone, to discuss what she can 
do to improve communication ( in the chatroom?). She will inform Herman

of AIDA ( of my whereabouts, and Yvonne Towikromo 
(the only editor willing to give me an assignment to make a

radiodocument for the NMO (Dutch Muslim Broadcaster) and, why not, our 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (The pioneer ambassador in Baghdad is not

very communicative and we simply don't have time to go out of our way to 
visit him. Anneke send him an E-mail months ago but never received a


I went with Anneke to civil pillar, feeling comfortable in Ahmeds fast car 
(carrying a gun and measuring 1.91 but also taking his responsibility very

seriously). I took photo's of the six rooms and 2 balconies and talked 
about the plans for a Media Training Centre here (to be directed by a woman

called Media!) We had lunch with the other Ahmed (Rekabi who misses Den 
Haag) and bought a mobile phone for Salam. We received the news that

a general strike has been called for saturday 10th, all shops, schools and 
workplaces are called to close by the Baathists and some Mujahedeen.

At 4 in the afternoon I went with Salam (see: to meet with 
Mufid Al-Jazairi who happens to be the Minister of Culture. He wanted to

see me about radio. His communist party is starting broadcasting and he as 
a Minister wants to start a cultural radio as well. To encourage people to

express and perform their culture, to reflect everyday life. In fact people 
in Iraq need to learn again how to do these things because the terror of

saddam has destroyed normal habits of communication between humans. While I 
look at his face I am reminded of another Minister of Culture

(briefly), who wrote a famous book,called the long road (?) about his 
transport to Buchenwald.

Anyway, I try to explain my approach and experience about community radio 
in places like Afghanistan and Kosovo, but also as a representative of

alternative media culture in Amsterdam. And I bluntly put to him that I 
don't think that a ministry of culture is the proper agent to start a radio

station, but should only facilitate it. He completely agrees. He sees his 
role as encouraging, creating an example, a model. And he thinks that

creating a station needs a lot of money, a lot of people and a big building 
to serve the nation. I tell him my approach is rather to create 100 or 1000

small radio station, with not so many people and not more than 10.000 or so 
dollars per What is needed is training of cadres and year.

  It is really time to get a team of technicians together for classic 
broadcasting and for streaming. On Al Jazeera I watch how some Japanese

hostages are being man handled with knives to force to confess that Allah 
really is the greatest. It seems that they also took two Dutch soldiers

hostage like this in As-Samawa, but you in Holland will probably have more 
details on this. I wonder if Mustafa Oukbih is in baghdad for Radio 1, and

whether or not the delegation of the Socialist Party will come over in two 
days. I think they should if they can afford the risk. In this situation the

presence of foreigners is quite important, and like I have written before, 
it is a rteal pleasure to feel the warmth and love of so many people here.

Maybe in autumn it will be possible to organize international volunteer 
camps to come and help with NGO and other activities... (Following a good

tradition from Croatia and Bosnia).

It is really good to be able to do something positive and not just sit 
around waiting for the enemy to show up or rely on guards I don't know. I

checked between 2.25 and 2.30 but I didn't see them. A truck is standing in 
front of the neighbors' house. I hope it's not explosive.

The Al Nidar Mosque is calling us for our morning prayers, so I will kiss 
you all good night.

(dog barking in the background f.o.)

Oops, now it's 4.30 a.m. and the first Helicopter flies over. 4.47 some 
more helicopters flying over near and low the birds start to sing.

Jo van der Spek, for http:///


Date: Tue, 6 Apr 2004 16:31:20 +0200 (CEST)
From: jo<AT>
Subject: diary from Baghdad Tuesday 6-4-4

   Monday evening the writers' buses arrived from Basrah back in Baghdad.
On our way into Baghdad we passed by a nice big park, but I did not see 
anybody playing...??? The problem is that the Americans also occupied

this: there were some vehicles parked. I asked what is being done about 
this. Yes, the newspapers have written about it, but nothing has changed.

I wondered loud, what will happen when 25000 children will climp over the 
fence. Will they start shooting? No probably not. So why can't the

Communist Party organize such a thing? They are the third political force 
in Iraq.

At the writers' association building some would-be writers were getting 
drunk and started to yell and fight. Nice live theatre! It could be a daily

ritual. I went out with Hamid to make a phonecall at a public phonebooth. 
It was hard to pass the number to the guy inside just when 2 tanks

passed by: believe me, that makes a lot of noise. They were probably on 
their way to Al Thoura, or Ssadr City (before known as Saddam City, poor

and mostly shiite), where big fighting was going on all day. We don't know 
how many were killed yet, tens of people, maybe 100 in all of Iraq and

many wounded. Only one US Marine got killed and one from El 
Salvador..(source "Stars and Stripes" of Monday 5-4, I guess they will have 
their US

numbers correct:) It seems Muqtada Al-Ssadr has mobilized heavily against 
the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). One of his aides was arrested

so he has reason to feel provoked, and also Shiites are walking to Karbala 
to do a religious celebr! ation. We some thousands of them walking on one

half of the Motorway, waving black, red and green flags, and pink too. All 
along the road stalls and tents are set up for refreshments, a peaceful

sight and I really admire there perseverance to walk 300 miles in the sun, 
the wind and the dust. And on the 9th of April it is one year after

"libaration"/occupation of Baghdad. So big time for Al-Ssadr. But he is 
only head of a small faction of the Shiite majority, and he does not have a 

of cash. Iran prefers to sponsor Sistani and other more 
moderate/controllable/responsible Shiite organizations it seems.
   Question: is Al-Ssadr an ordinary crook, who exploits the fame of his 
father, tries to make cash by robbing, or does he have a political program,

vision or sth? Most lefties think he is dangerous. Of course I am dying to 
go into Ssadr City, but it is closed for now by CPA forces. And it would

upset all my friends...
I could sleep in the Writers' House, from 22 till 5.30 this morning.

I enjoyed sunrise on the roof with the birds and then the cars. I waited to 
record the call for morning prayers, but it didn't come. Why I don't know.

At 8 I went straight to find Anneke van Ammelrooy. I arrived at Al Sabah, 
the newspaper that many believe to be the voice of CPA, but according to

Anneke is going to break all ties with the CPA, USAID, etc. very soon.
On the 20th of March a new media law was declared by Paul Bremer, regarding 
all RTV, wireless, internet, etc. And for some reason CPA and Iraqi

Media Network (IMN) included Al Sabah to fall under this law, as the only 
newspaper. Clearly they want to tighten their grip on Al Sabah, and it is

very unclear who is the owner. Any day CPA humvees may arrive to take over 
the building and the printshop, but it seems the journalists are well

prepared for this. Again I am happy to join them.
I took photo's of the workers in the print shop, half of them are women and 
all wanted on the photo. In fact the rotation press was closed, people

were working to collect books. The presses are very old and neglected. They 
need repairs and maintenance all the time, so Al Sabah is quite happy

to go to another printer, but what will happen with this printshop is 
unsure. They do rpint some other newspapers, but quite afew may loose their

job, since Al Sabah is printing 75.000 copies daily. Still, this printshop 
started Al Sabah together with journalists. This kind of workers'

selfmanagement is created right after the war and will hopefully be more 
than a crisis solution... You know, once you have seen their faces and

received their warmth I cannot but feel solidarity with them. But then 
again, I seem to be a romantic person...

Talking about crisis media, the rumours are going round like always in 
situations like this. The governing council is flying down and up to Kuwait 

siongle night to party. Saddam has been moved to New York, or even Israel. 
The Mossad has bought 200 square kilometers of land in Kurdistan.

Impossible, since it is impossible to buy land in Iraq at this stage. 
Property rights, both of land and real estate are very very unclear and 

 From Al Sabah I wen with Anneke van Ammelrooy to her home, where I can put 
my excited and tired body to slep (thanx), and then on to her Civil

Pillar office not far from here in the south (Ssadr City is in the North, 
so don't worry). Civil Pillar is a node in a network of initiatives, 
projects and

small enterprise. It is a meeting place, that Annke tries to coordinate, 
help with fundraising, training, advice, exchange etc. So she organizes a

meeting with (radio)journalists who are into free media, networking, 
creating content and use internet for publishing, activism, alternative 
media and,

of course, the Tigris Woods project. Anneke has this crazy idea to reclaim 
the island in the Tigris and has approaced Al Jazeera for sponsoring. Al

Jazeera means Island in Arabic u know, and it would give this satallite TV 
station an opportunity to improve it's image among the citizens of Baghdad.

They don't like al Jazeera for being anti-American or sth. Anyway, one 
island helping the oth! er to come to life sounds like a brilliant idea. So 

about Vlieland, Fiji, Trsitan da Cunha and Pampus??? It would be a very 
nice place to land the Tigris Woods project too.

Oops, I still have lots of photo's to download, compress and mail  for the 
website .

So I better stop now.

p.s. this was written in wordpad on a computer configured for Arabic, so it 
may appear a bit funny here and there, right to left, a nice exercise in

the higher art of Kellek (thank u Marnix)

Right now, or rather aside from this, I am writing a mailinglist of all 
friends and relations to send this to, (thank u Sanja, my snake:). This may 

lead to confusion, but then, this is Baghdad u know. (no u don't)


Date: Sun, 4 Apr 2004 09:59:29 +0200 (CEST)
From: jo<AT>
Subject: REPORT FROM bASRA, sUNDAY 4-4-4

sorry master,

I need more guidance.
Where do I go from the parent directory ?

Did you notice any streaming yesterday? I did it with 1.2, 
just a looped music piece

u nor Jaromil were online, I am afraid.

But the guys in Radio 2 Rivers were quite excited. I gave them a copy, 
making sure they include it in their proigram on onternet, AND explaining that

it is for free. So nobody goes about selling the shit.

Today, Sunday, time of writing 10.20 AM. It is cloudy and there's a serious 
wind blowing from the south, from the Gulf. This brings an occasional

drop of rain, but mostly dust. So I got one piece of cloth from a 
chambermaid, sitting on the floor of the landing in hotel Merbed. I tried to

accomodate it on my head, to serve as a disguise. But she told me not to, 
coz the cloth is dirty. I went outside where Salam was interviewing Salah

Hassan for his weekly Arban program on Radio Lora Zuerich. I helped him to 
cover the mike with the cloth. MD's don't like dust. And besides, it is not

bad to hide your elctronics from evil eyes.

There is some tension in town. Yesterday an angry mob of joibless people 
invaded the post office and looted the place. Today it seems there's

another demonstration. And I am told that we cannot go out. Not even by 
taxi. Everybody is afraid of primitive, islamic, extremist, anti-western,

anti-intellectual, anti-whatever. They are not after your goods, but after 
you. They might follow you until they can isolate you and beat you up. In

fact they are more afraid trhan I am, which is understandable. Iraqi's tend 
to be scared, that's how they've lived for years. And they also feel very

responsible for my well-being. So we hang around in the lobby. Very boring, 
I hate prisons. Personally I would prefer to go out and join the

demonstration, disappearing in the crowd. But I tell myself I should not 
embarrass my hosts.

I am overwhelmed by the attention, the gifts and the love I receive from 
the young and the old. Salah Hasan walks in a T-shirt of Amnesty. His

white hair makes hium suspicious. He somehow looks more Dutch than Iraqi. I 
have chosen a nichname: Aziz Shati, meaning precious river. I had a

hair cut in Amman (Jordan) and I hope to find a woollen cap to look even 
more like an Iraqi.

We just have to go out. I got permission to walk one block to the next 
hotel to write this report. But Salah has business: the container with books

from Holland is on a ship now and should arrive the 25th. So he has to make 
sure that it arrives in one piece at the University. We must find the

prof, maybe find a shipping agent. I have to go to CPA where Clare Baxter 
has arranged gfor my Canon battery to be charged (I left my charger in

Baghdad....). And I need a massage... I just about broke my back yesterday, 
when it took me 2 hours to send 3 pics from the poetry festival.
I am happy to see trhe photo of Gulala Noory on the site now.  Gulala is a 
young poet and TV maker from Mosul. She just started to

make a TV documentary on the Tigris.

Yesterday afternoon I spend at the radiostation 2 rivers to give and try 
the streaming software of Jaromil ( Then dinner with Yousef who

went with me to be presented to Shakir Al-Serraf, the retired engineer and 
founder of NGO. Yousef is a bright and quiet guy, who served with

Washington Post (watching ther looting of the Sheraton Hotel on the bank of 
Shat Al Arab (that's the name of river here, actually it is Eufrate and

Tigris together).
Then I was interviewd by local correspondent of Al Sabah. I said the 
leftovers of the Sheraton should be destroyed completely, coz it's very 
ugly. Or

else turned into a people's palace. Why not launch a contest for architects 
and have the citizens vote for the best design?

Then I had a very emotional exchange with a guy who wanted me to see his 
diary.A story of terror and love. Salam had to cry when he saw the

cloth with flowers and writing the mother of the authjor had brought to him 
while in jail. Say no more.

Then we went to the room of Muafak Muhammad, 54, from Babylon. He invited 
me to come to his house. To walk around, see the farms, have

traditional breakfast and go to the bath house (Hamam).Then we recorded 
poetry, discussion and singing. Eating lovely nuts, drinking beer and Arak

(of Dades).
How to get Saddam out of Iraq, that is the question. For each and every 
person having survived him. They have only just started. Young people see

me as a saviour. I tell them only self-confidence can save them, and feel 
embarrassed again for preaching. But DIY is the only way.

At breakfast (sorry I try in vain to keep some sort of chronology...) we 
looked at photo's of paintings of Ryadh Al-Fuad. Really beautiful. I hope to

visit his atelier and take shots pof his work.

So much to see, so much to do, so much intensity.

shukran habibi

Aziz Shatty


Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2004 10:10:33 +0200 (CEST)
From: jo&ltAT>
Subject: April 2

I am now in Basra, safe and sound. I upset many people when I wanted to 
roam the streets at night. I did it with a policeman in a chevy. Fact

finding? Fuck finding? No, internet. But no network. Only by daylight...

Lots of photo's but uploading takes long time. Will try later on. Yes, I 
keep diary. But not always on computer. Also later on.

first poetry festival Merbed after Saddam in Basrah 2-4 April - Gulala 
Noory reading her poem on being a lonely woman

here short in Dutch:

ik ben met de bus vol schrijvers in Basra aangekomen. Logeren in hotel Al 
Marbed, tel. 00.964.40.611652, room 125. Het is geweldig, iedereen vind

het geweldig dat ik er ben, en ik hoor prachtge verhalen. Bijvoorbeeld de 
ene schrijver die door de andere is veroordeeld. Want die ene is communist

en de andere WAS rechter.
j het hotel werden we gefouilleerd en de bagage doorzocht. En ik mocht 's 
avonmds niet naar buiten. Toch gedaan natuurlijk, in de auto met een

politieman. Maar geen internet of telkefoon gevonden: geen network.
Nu wel dus, vrijkdagmorgen. Hier eigenlijk zondag.

En zondag gaan we met onze drie bussen naar de boom van adAdam, waar de 
Eufraat en de Tigris samenvloeien.

Jo van der Spek


Date: Wed, 31 Mar 2004 17:32:34 +0200 (CEST)
Subject: Re: new terror

don't worry
I am alive

I am in Baghdad
had a good trip
yes, just a detour near Falludzja

Baghdad is crazy
really crazy

I arrived at 10
spent an hour in traffic jams
found Al Muajaha (the paper) closed
spend half the day in house with girls

went out to find Hazim
nice driver, has sister in Amsterdam
recorded his greetings
also for detroit and California

took lots of shots of Tigris
got headache, slept a bit
finally found Majid

all phonelines are out of order
traffic is a mess
but it is beautiful

don't know where I will sleep
if I go to Basra tomorrow

we will see


Jo van der Spek
 > please gimme ping, now i feel worried about u.
 > 15:00 Uhr: Neun Tote bei Anschlägen im Irak
 > Bagdad: Bei Anschlägen im Irak sind neun Menschen getötet worden. Westlich
 > von Bagdad starben fünf Soldaten, als ein Sprengsatz unter ihrem
 > Militärfahrzeug detonierte. In Falludscha wurde ein ziviler Konvoi mit
 > Granaten und Handfeuerwaffen überfallen. Vier Ausländer starben. Die


Date: Tue, 30 Mar 2004 22:20:53 +0200 (CEST)
Subject: Re: !!info!!/re:

Welcome to cloudy Amman.

It is an ugly city, really. All buildings are grey. Nobody bothers to paint 
it, not even whitewash.
I didn't find a real centre, just some mainstreets.
According to Raed, people in Amman have no culture, only electronics.
Whereas Baghdadi's have culture only.

I stay at Hotel merryland, which has a juicy nightclub in the basement. So 
lots of dirtyArabs around. One of them advised me to put my dollars in my

socks. Which I already did. I hope he doesn't send his cousin to catch me 
on the way to B....

I had an exciting haircut by a Palestinian hairdresser (most people in 
Jordan, esp. Amman are Palestinian (or Iraqi, only now Iraqi's don't get

residence unless they have 80.000 dollars on their account). Anyway, this 
hairdresser used a special kind of strong black thread to do epilation,

taking off my criminal eyebrows and ear hairs.

The catch was of course how to get a safe ride to baghdad. You take off 
around midnight, after 5 hours you come to the Iraq border, so in daylight

you do ca. 600km to Baghdad.
I have tested the driver Mahmoud, and he passed. He only charges 100 dollars.

Exciting news about connectivity was told by Raed Jarrar (he is an 
architect, who specialized in post crisis urbanism). In Baghdad they had a 

called Senau, a wireless phone system. And now they are ISP offering 
wireless connectivity. I am sure we can work out a way to do local

broadcasting and streaming with them.
And what is also very positive: Baghdad is completely flat (umnlike Amman) 
and houses are mostly just 2 or 3 stories. However Al Muajaha is in a

high building, just like above mentioned ISP. The ISP is called Dijla, 
meaning Tigris.

so Allah is with me.

< ok im gonna update.
< -<<<<<<
< could you please write some first impressions from Aman???
< all the people here asking me for it and I cant tell nothing
< please do it right now. just 5-10 paragraphs. maybe less.
< -<<<<<<

Jo van der Spek


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