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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 September, 2004, 08:04 GMT 09:04 UK
Iraqis seek a voice via blogs
By Clark Boyd
Technology correspondent

Nearly all the information from Iraq is filtered by politicians or the media. But there is at least one way to get the news straight from Iraqis themselves, via online journals or blogs.

Newspaper seller in Iraq
Newspapers are the traditional way to find out what is going on
Before the war in Iraq, the world had only heard of one blogger, who went by his online name of Salam Pax.

Now, Pax has been joined by more than 70 other Iraqi bloggers, among them Faiza Al-Araji.

The mother of three boys, she works as a manager in a Baghdad water treatment company.

She started keeping an off-line diary just before the war started.

"I feel it is two things in one," she said. "Just to clean my soul, and to get the pain out of my heart.

"And number two, to show people in the world, how is our daily life."

Fighting and pain

Mrs Araji wanted to share her experiences with a wider audience.

Faiza Al-Araji (Image courtesy of her blog)
Everything is sad, because you're scared about your sons, your family, your job, everything
Faiza Al-Araji, blogger
Fortunately, one of her sons just happened to be a blogging pal of Salam Pax, so her son set up a blog for her in December of 2003.

Called A Family in Baghdad, the first thing she put on the weblog were her war diaries.

To her, they show the hope that many Iraqis felt in the early days of the American-led invasion.

"This is America, great America, surely they are going to make very good things for Iraqis," she said.

But Mrs Araji's blog now paints a different picture.

"Fighting, explosion, killing and blood everyday," she said. "You are not safe, and everything is confusing you.

"Everything is sad, because you're scared about your sons, your family, your job, everything."

A question of truth

Confusion is a common theme among many of the Iraqi blogs, which is not surprising, given the difficult situation in Iraq.

"Iraq is a difficult place," said Ali Fadhil, blogger and a medical resident in Baghdad.

Burial in Iraq
The majority wants peace, wants democracy, wants to live their lives, have a peaceful life. They want freedom and democracy
Ali Fadhil, medical resident
"There are many divergent opinions, and people were not really ready for the change."

He reluctantly joined his two brothers in creating a weblog last November.

"I thought it was a waste of time in the beginning. I didn't think anyone was listening," he said.

"I was surprised to see that there were many people reading our blog, and we were telling things they didn't know. So, I thought that this was a good idea, to help tell the truth."

Mr Fadhil believes the "truth" about Iraq has been mis-represented and exaggerated by the Western media.

Most Iraqis, he said, are glad Saddam Hussein is gone. And they want the American-led forces to stay, for now.

"No one wants to fight America or the coalition. When I say no one, I mean the majority.

"The majority wants peace, wants democracy, wants to live their lives, have a peaceful life. They want freedom and democracy. That's what we see."

Ali Fadhil and his brother Mohammed got such a response to the ideas they expressed in their weblog that they have decided to run for parliament.

They are even using the web to solicit donations and hope to sell party-related campaign gear online soon.

Chatty net

But not all of the new generation of Iraqi bloggers focus on the war and its aftermath.

Some fill their online diaries with neighbourhood gossip. Others discuss their fears about upcoming university entrance exams.

One blogger goes by the name Neurotic Iraqi Wife.

Cover of Salam Pax's book
Salam Pax turned his blog into a book
She uses her blog as a way to discuss her husband, who went off to "rebuild the country" three days after they were married.

Neurotic Iraqi Wife is using her blog as a way of figuring out how to get him to come home.

The original Baghdad Blogger, Salam Pax, welcomes all of these developments.

"It used to be very difficult to actually get access to the internet," he said.

"Now, you go in the street, and there are these little cards you buy, and then you go online.

"Of course, you must have a phone that works, electricity on your computer, and these things are not really there yet."

Salam Pax himself took some time off from blogging after the Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal as the photos shocked him so badly that he, for once, had nothing to say.

He now has a new blog called Shut Up You Fat Whiner.

It alternates between the serious and the comic. In one entry, he wonders whether Shiite cleric Ali Al-Sistani could do with a makeover by the TV show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Another recent entry praises Iraq's new generation of bloggers.

"With all the mess we are in, there are still people here who have chosen to express ideas and views in ways that do not involve throwing explosives at each other," he wrote in his blog.

Clark Boyd is technology correspondent for The World, a BBC World Service and WGBH-Boston co-production


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