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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 March, 2003, 11:41 GMT
Life in Baghdad via the web
Screengrab of Dear Raed weblog, BBC
The journal gives an insight into Iraqi life
The online diary of an Iraqi man living in Baghdad is proving hugely popular with net users.

The weblog describes what it is like to live through bombing raids, the effect of the bombing on everyday life in the capital and the views of ordinary Iraqis.

The "Dear Raed" web log offers an antidote to the military view of the war that most people are getting via television.

But some have questioned the site's authenticity and wonder if it is the work of US or Iraqi propagandists.

Deserted city

The journal is apparently the work of a 29-year-old architect who has assumed the pseudonym of Salam Pax and has been steadily growing in popularity over the last six months.

Salam has provided analysis of domestic events in Iraq since late last year which have included elections, UN weapons inspections and the preparations for war.

Satellite image of central Baghdad, Space Imaging Middle East
Central Baghdad has regularly been bombed
The blog has become much more popular since the start of the conflict and has regularly topped the list of sites that other journal keepers, or bloggers, are watching.

Salam has given first-hand accounts of the air raids on Baghdad and told of seeing television pictures of B52s taking off, knowing that six hours later they could be dropping bombs on the capital.

The fact that the US bombing has left power and telephone lines working has allowed Salam to keep posting updates to his weblog during the opening days of the conflict.

The only thing that has stopped Salam updating his journal is the popularity of the site.

What many have found most compelling is Salam's description of the ways that war distorts everyday life for the Iraqi people.

Salam has written that Baghdad has almost come to a halt with many shops closed, some foodstuffs in short supply and prices rising steeply.

"I have never seen Baghdad like this," he writes.

The roads are quiet and the only large groups of people on the streets are armed Baath party members who are taking up positions in trenches, in squares and at road junctions.

Hi-tech check

Word of the weblog's existence has spread via e-mail, online discussion groups and through the recommendations of other bloggers.

But as the popularity of Dear Raed has grown some have cast doubt on its authenticity and asked if it is the work of Saddam Hussein's regime or even the work of US propagandists.

Baghdad street scene, AP
Baath party members are taking to the streets
Technology journalist Paul Boutin has tried to find out if the blog is being updated by someone in Iraq by looking at the headers of e-mail messages sent by Salam and by trying to find out where he is posting his updates from.

Mr Boutin found that the net addresses appearing in the e-mail headers were similar to those used by other people who have sent messages from Iraq.

Using widely available web tools, Mr Boutin found out that the net address used by Salam to post updates came via Lebanon and may have originated in Iraq itself.

Mr Boutin said that further evidence that Salam is who he says came from the blog itself which has regularly contradicted Western news reports about the situation in Baghdad and always been shown to be right.

Salam gave his own answer to doubters on 21 March when he wrote: "Please stop sending e-mails asking if I were for real, don't belive (sic) it? then don't read it."

"I am not anybody's propaganda ploy," he added, "well except my own."




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