Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Code Pink Rally At White House

8 minutes video of a rally in Washington, inspired by the Muntadhar Al Zaidi farewell kiss to President Bush

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Iraqi Farewell To Bush

A couple of weeks ago I read an interview with U.S. President, George W Bush with ABC news where he expressed his regret on the war in Iraq and admitted wrongness in waging that war in the first place. After reading that interview I was wondering if it is possible to impeach this American president for crimes against humanity, not only Iraqis, but also the U.S. loss of men and money. I received a reply to a comment on that interview from someone who accused me of "yearning the days of Saddam". My answer was asking that person if he sees the similarity between Saddam and Bush in following the same conduct of butchering a nation.

Iraqis threw and slapped the statues of Saddam with shoes and slippers in 2003. Today I saw a similarity in giving farewell to Bush: throwing shoes at him and called "Dog".

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Zayouna neighborhood Today

Zayouna used to be one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Baghdad.

I received this picture of the neighborhood after heavy rain today.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Security Pact: Approved by Parliament

security.pact.1 Today the Iraqi parliament has voted to accept a deal on the future presence of US troops. This means that US troops will stay in the country for another 3 years. In addition, the parliament voted on another resolution that call for a referendum in July 2009, during which the public will get the chance either to accept or reject this pact. What does that mean? This means that this pact will replace the U.N. mandate, which will expires at the end of year, and according to the agreement sets June 30, 2009, as the deadline for U.S. combat troops to withdraw from all Iraqi cities and towns. This will be followed for a December 31, 2011 for all U.S. troops to leave Iraq. Without going into the details of the agreement and what are the advantages and the disadvantages, this is a new chapter begin in the history of Iraq (I am not echoing the words of George W Bush, who welcomed the decision by Iraqi lawmakers), but having an occupying force that defied the whole world community, launched a war against another country, and at the end it replaces the force of that international community law by closing a deal with the government of that occupied country, all this sounds awkward to me from the point that the country is still not healthy enough (politically) to make such agreements. Some argue that this is one of the main reasons for approval on that security pact, but as a friend of mine put it: what a mess!

What will happen next? Will this help in restoring security to the country? and how? everyone is talking about the sovereignty of Iraq being violated the moment this pact is approved – of course there is always the counter opinions to that, especially seeing how Iran already penetrated within the political and social structure of Iraq today, and some of those agreed on the Iraq-US security pact was driven by the fact that this would limit the Iranian influence. How far from truth is it? that remains to be seen. On the other hand, those for the agreement argue that it would bring stability to the country by giving enough time for the Iraqi forces and military to be 100% ready to take control of all Iraqi cities and villages on their own.  I am not with this agreement, neither rejecting entirely – I am with cooperation with the United States on different levels, but on a condition that this would respect the will and integrity of a sovereign state.  The way this fiesta has been going on for months now with many rumors on what is good and what is bad about the agreement is something that raise suspicions. The way the whole thing came around is also like “here, you have to sign these papers, we know what is good for you, sign, and lets get into business” Therefore, with the absence of clarity it is not possible setup a concrete opinion on anything. In addition, I don’t know who to blame? is it the U.S. for imposing its will on Iraq, as some indicates, which will cost more suffering by the Iraqi people, especially seeing the past 5 years did not deliver but more sorrow and agony and above all that violence. Or, should I blame the Iraqi government that did not show a little mercy for its people since the fall of the dictatorship and until this very moment? However, I don’t think that the blame can be put on the U.S., it is our house, Iraq is our house and we should care for it, not someone else.

I get back to the same question: what will happen next? demonstrations? yes, there will be peaceful demonstrations. More violence? and by whom? yes, and by different parties to put one blame on the other. To make long story short: there will be no stability in Iraq, as long as no stable government exists i.e. a government that reflect the opinion of the common citizen.

I wish many times that I could be proven wrong on some issues, this is one of these things I would hope for being wrong in it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You Are Iraqi

Raise Your Head up and high because you are Iraqi.

This is a song by Iraqi singer, Ismail Alfarwachi, called "You are Iraqi"

Friday, November 7, 2008

Saddam’s Slaughter Factory: The 1979 setup

iraq_blood_hand300 Albaghdadia satellite TV station has become in recent years by many regarded as a reliable source for the disclosure of historical events took place in modern Iraq, by conducting interviews and show reports on Iraq during the time when Saddam was in power. I mentioned once before an interview on this station with Faisal Al-Yasiri, where important part of how people in the regime used to behave and their attitude. In addition, many Iraqis had the opportunity to watch the controversial interview that Albaghdadia did with Raad Al Hamdani, a senior military commander during the 2003 war in Iraq, who explained in details the circumstances and focused mainly in his testimony on the way Saddam, and his elite (including his sons) dealt with the political and military aspects before, during and shortly after that war.

A couple of days ago I watched another interview on Albaghdadia satellite TV station. It was with Saleem Shaker Al Imam, a former military commander and a diplomat in the late 1970's. He was another witness of Saddam's brutality during that period as his testimony focused on the notorious Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) conference on 22 July 1979 – two weeks after Saddam assumed presidency. There are a number of names given to that meeting: some call it “Saddam’s purge of the Ba’ath party”, some call it “the setup”, and others used to call it as “the slaughter of the comrades”. Saleem Shaker Al Imam was among many high-profile Iraqi politicians and military commanders Saddam accused them of plotting against the “the new leadership of Iraq” with the help, support and sponsorship of Syria. During that time, Saleem Shaker Al Imam was a senior diplomat in the Iraqi Ambassy in London when the he was called and ordered to fly back immediately to Baghdad. Al Imam did not have any prior knowledge on the events of the meeting and that a number of Iraqi politicians, such as Mohammed Ayesh, Ghanim Abdel Jaleel and Adnan Al Hamdani were taken into custody. Such knowledge would not qualify him of being a collaborator with them in trying to topple Saddam. Further more, the airplane he boarded first made a short stop in Damascus International Airport! Yes, it is the same Damascus, the capital of Syria. This is something very strange, because if Al Imam was planning to participate in that alleged “coup”, he would simply made precautious measures and would be applying for political asylum in Syria, and not to continue with his trip to Baghdad, right? Al Imam arrived in Baghdad a car with two security service men in suits were waiting for him at the airplane. They put him in a car and was taken to a building used to be called “the Jewish temple”. There, he was among many politicians he knew very well from the old days, either through military or political career, and there were some whom he met there for the first time in his life. All were put before a court established to trial those “conspirators”, it was presided by Na’eem Haddad, Sadoon Shaker and Barzan Al Tikriti (Saddam’s half brother). The result was considered as one of the most inhumane mass murder in Iraq’s history: quarter of the RCC members were executed by shooting them to death, another number of men were jailed between 1 and 20 years. It didn’t stop till that, Saddam extended his punishment to include family members: He issued an order to confiscate all properties like houses, lands, money in banks, belongings…etc The wives of these men executed or jailed in July 1979 were fired from their jobs; some of those wives were also been arrested many times after some fabricated accusations related to bad-mouthing the government; others were submitted to harsh psychological harassment, they were terrorized by intelligence services agents for years followed. Other family members like cousins, nephews, husbands and wives of close relatives till 4’th degree have faced with the same fate.

That was the final episode of a series of hunting down Iraqi political and military figures by Saddam since he was appointed as vice president in July 1968 onward. Names like Hardan Al Tikriti and Abdel Khaliq Al Samaray used to bring shivers to Saddam, that’s why it was essential for him to take them out in mid 1970’s to ensure that his ambitions to become the only leader, the one who cannot be challenged, argued with or threatened. Speaking of Abdel Khaliq Al Samaray, when the 1979 meeting took place he was already under arrest since 1973, but it was the best opportunity to include him with the others in 1979, because according to Saddam, letting an opponent stay alive means a ticking bomb would explode at anytime, for that reason it must be ignited or take it out.

According to one source, on 18 of July, few days before that RCC meeting Ba’ath party leaders were invited to a dinner party at the presidential palace where Saddam asked all of them to write a detailed report of any meeting they might have had with Adul-Hussain Al Mashhadi or Mohammed Ayesh. Saddam has ordered that the meeting to be filmed on Video tape and those copies of that horrendous play to be distributed on every single governmental organization, ministry, military academy and all Iraqi embassies abroad. I have seen the video tape many years ago. I also have seen a copy of that video with English translation with it. I don’t know the source of that copy. The author of the book, Republic of Terror, summarizes the events took place in that meeting, as follows:

ON the 20th of July he convened an extraordinary conference of the party in an unremarkable hall near the presidential palace which was to be the setting for a most ugly piece of business strongly reminiscent of Stalin’s show trials. On his orders the proceedings were videotaped. It was his intention to ensure that every Ba’athists everywhere should know the power which is now ruling the country, copies were sent to thousands all over the world, it is badly shot in black and white and the sound is of a very poor quality but nothing can hide the dramatic nature of what was taking place. The proceedings were opened by one of his thug who announces the discovery of the plot and declares that all the conspirators were in the hall. Then a man who has until very recently been in charge of the presidential office and the secretary general of the RCC but who has recently voiced some misgivings about the wisdom of the coming war came into the hall walking very slowly and speaking with apparent difficulty, he makes a lengthy confession in which he condemns himself and accuses four other members of the leadership of participating in the plot which he blames on the president of Syria, the man has been put under arrest soon after the RCC meeting when he was so stupid to oppose the adventure Saddam was now committed to undertake. Throughout all these events he was sitting alone at a table on a slightly raised platform slumped in his chair smoking one of his favorite eight inch Havana cigars the smoke wreathing around the table as he listen. The delegates are disturbed, nervous and shifting trying to decide how to react, then the leader stands up and start to read from a list of names in his hands, a name is read and the figure who has been mentioned is seen taken away from the hall by one of the security men who were encircling the delegates, another name is called and another doomed creature is taken a way and so on and it continues for sometime by the end of it Saddam has worked through a list of 60 names, there is a box of tissue near him when he reads some of the names he finds it difficult to stop a very strong stream of tears from his eyes!! That same day a special court found 55 of the named men guilty and sentenced them to death by democratic execution a devise of Saddam’s creation which means that senior members of the party has to take part in the firing squads which ensures a no going back; responsibility is spread.

By the way, that method of filming such an event was used later on in the 1980’s by Saddam second half-brother, Sab’awy Ibrahim Al Hasan when he was the minister of interior. Uday, Saddam eldest son also found that method of terror useful, check the Iraqi Olympic Committee meetings.

One of the things that Saleem Shaker Al Imam did make clear on that interview is: First, all those who have been accused of the conspiracy against the government were innocent. Second, there was no plot backed up by Syria in the first place, and none of those RCC members did plan anything to overthrow the government. Third, all the men who have been either executed or jailed were selected because of their own political view, which in itself would pause a grave danger to Saddam plans for the future of Iraq. Mr. Shaker Al Imam is not the first to confirm this, but he was the first from the 1979 setup victims who gave his own testimony. Before him, Salih Omar Al Ali, an opponent of Saddam, and used to be one of the closest assistants to former Iraqi president Ahmed Hasan Al Baker, reiterated on a number of occasions in interviews on different Arabic and international channels and newspapers that the notorious 1979 meeting was nothing but a mass-assassination operation, designed and skillfully crafted by Saddam’s criminal mind to wipe out the last big obstacle from his way to successfully take control over Iraq and its resources. Another witness of that event recently interviewed was Hamid Al Joboury who confirmed on al Jazeera channel that fact.

I would say: Those men were smarter than Saddam politically and militarily, for that, the only way was to stab them in the back. By that, Saddam came out of this and for years to come unchallenged.

Guide To Iraqi Satelite TV Stations

We used to talk about movies and shows, we used to ask each other "on which channel? is it on channel 7 or channel 9?" I don't know how the name came about, and why 7 or 9! In the late 1980's and early 1990's the name was changed to "First Iraqi Channel" and "Second Iraqi Channel", the latter was replaced with another channel called Al Shabab, which was known as Uday's (Saddam's son) sponsored TV station.

After the fall of Iraqi regime and as a reaction to the heavy and excessive censorship of the government, and with the support of the US for some, many Iraqi satellite TV stations were starting to broadcast, I talked about that in an earlier post about until 2007, there are more than 22 TV stations can be picked up by NileSAT satellite. This is new Iraq.

I found a link in English listing the names of the most common and known Iraqi satellite TV stations, for those interested in knowing about these channels and their political / social agenda.

Why am I writing about this? Maybe because I have finally installed a satellite TV at home?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Headlines 11 October 2008

These are the headline news on Iraq for the 11'th of October 2008.

I never believed in what I read and heard about Iraq becoming a safer place for ordinary Iraqis.

Does this screen shot from the headlines on Iraq gives any indication of yet another peaceful Iraq?

Another question: are we now over with hearing about those trying to inflict sectarian war among Iraqi Muslims so they turned to Iraqi Christians? It is all over the news, there are who are accusing the Kurds of committing crimes against the Christian community in north of Iraq, but why would they do something like that, if we assume that the media is telling the truth? Some spokesman from the Iraqi government accuses al-Qaeda after "their failure to rage war between the two main Muslim groups living in Iraq". Yet, more Iraqis are fleeing as a result of the latest attacks in Mosul. In the meantime, Baghdad has witnessed another bloody morning in different areas, one of them a remote car bomb explosed in Al-Bayya, a neiberhood wouth west of Iraqi capital, killed eight people and wounded thirteen.

Wasn't Al-Bayya a target in previous years? Did the government and after all attacks on this area in Baghdad realized how to protect this area, and other areas? Iraqi government yesterday promised to protect Christians and a government spokesman said that such attacks on the Christians is new..." and that around 1000 policemen has been deployed to protect citizens in Christian areas of Mosul. Who read this post can easily figure out what I am trying to say: if the government was not able to protect Al-Bayya, how are they going to deal with the new situation of Christians being threatend to be killed or flee their own homes?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Al Sharqiya Interview With Al Sarmady

Sarmad Al Sarmady is a professor from Babel, Iraq. I mentioned him a couple of time here and here. He sent me an email telling me that he has a new profile on Facebook. He also told me that he was interviewed by Iraqi satellite channel, Al Sharqiyah. The video of that interview below for those interested.

Vote For The Cutest Iraqi Children

I don't think I am late for posting on this competition, it runs on weekly basis; A new group created on Facebook by a number of Iraqis called "the cutest Iraqi children". People can put their children photos or their own photos when they were children.

The first prize photo winner will be the group's main photo for 5 days. The second and the third will have their photos published as the group's picture for two days after the 5 days finish of the nr.1 picture winner.

There are also discussion forums on that group where people would exchange and share their ideas on the subject.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Conflicting Responsibility For Iraq

More than a week and in the news and I am reading more about more blame to put on Iraqi government and officials for failure in boosting the economy of the war-thrashed country. In addition, more concerns about the contracts US military already involved with in re-construction of Iraq since the end of 2003. Military contracts in Iraq cost taxpayers at least $85 billion since the 2003 invasion through last year, and the amount is estimated to hit $100 billion by the end of 2008, the Congressional Budget Office reported Tuesday. According to the Los Angeles Times website, scrutiny about costs of contractors in Iraq and neighboring countries has come to an increase. In addition, two senators, Democrat Carl Levin and Republican John Cornyn have voiced their outrage and demanded that the U.S. should stop panting American taxpayer for reconstruction projects in Iraq and let the Iraqis pay with their earnings from oil sales. According to an Aug. 5 report put out by the Government Accountability Office, which serves as the investigating agency for Congress, American agencies have so far spent $23.2 billion on oil, electricity, security, and water projects since the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. In contrast, “The Iraqi government spent $3.9 billion on those needs in the past three years.” According to senator Levin.

The USA Today explained the situation in similar way but in different context; "(Iraq as) a nation that desperately needs electricity, water, housing and other infrastructure is sitting on money it won't or can't spend. Meanwhile, U.S. taxpayers have funded the vast majority of Iraq's reconstruction. " The article continue to ask a valid question, illustrating at the same time the official answer delivered by the US government "With its infrastructure in tatters and Iraqis in desperate need of basics such as electricity, why isn't the Iraqi government spending much more of its oil wealth to rebuild the country? Iraqi and U.S. officials say that the Iraqis don't have the financial expertise yet to spend their money, that anti-corruption procedures make the process cumbersome, that the war made rebuilding perilous, etc. Perhaps. But these are weak excuses in view of how much the lack of progress in Iraqis' daily lives undercuts the U.S. effort there." The enitre article can be read here.

The above is just a fractions from the many sources I read in the past weeks about the increasing concern and in many cases anger in Capitol Hill and other US governmental locations about the costs of this war. The voices about the cost of the war, reconstruction efforts, security, all are not new to anyone following the news in Iraq, we have been hearing this for years, but we also got used to the known method of putting pressure on Iraqi officials, blaming them for incompetence in many ways, such as lack of determination to fight corruption, or lack of expertese to provide infrastructure services for citizens, as indicated above. Before I continue, I want to make something clear: I am not defending any Iraqi official, simply because I don't support any of them. I also don't want to put the blame soley on US government or on George W Bush (of course, for making the US as super power got stuck in a situation, like a paper jammed in the middle of a printing job - it won't be printed out, and cannot be pull out and cancel that print job. I am not doing that, I know that corruption can be best be set as an example in Iraq, I am also confident that everybody knows about some Iraqi government officials who bought villas in Iraq's neighboring countries (I don't know about European and other countries, maybe they did that too), so, it is not something that new, the golden opportunity is there since the moment Saddam was toppled in 2003 and until now.

Yet, why is it now that voices about costs and responsibility became louder, and the number of people calling for US to backoff from Iraq is increasing? why now? There are who would answer that voices were there, long time ago, many years ago, but they are now louder than before, in calling for this mad war and illegal occupation to end, and that it is time for the boys to come back home. Another explanation is the way things are now, compare it to that back in 2003; US troops infatuation with Iraqis has long been lost! The country used to be governed by one Saddam, now there are ten Saddams. The people had to deal with the little of services and goods during sanctions and war times, they managed to survive like any basic creature on earth, but now, more and more people are fleeing the country for economic reasons - not talking about political reasons in the first place. The country was on the edge of a civil war (still stands), but now we have the Kurds turning their weapons into the south and east because of Kirkuk... in short the country is falling apart, while both active power (US) and legeslative power (Iraqi government) want to get rid of their responsibility.. Wait a minute... does all that has to do with the fact that Iraqi officials are pressing demands on a scheduled withdraw from Iraq and that no security pact cannot be reached in the near future?

This is just a speculation, nothing more, nothing less. I don't blame those two senators for ranting on costs or any govermental organisation for showing displeasure with such a reality, but my question is valid, everything has been politicized for the sake of the interest of a certain group or government. This has been proven in the past and the game is far from being over.

Again, the situation in Iraq shows real incompetent in the way the government is dealing with the most basic services. It is August, and ask any Iraqi and he or she would first complain about how hell fire the weather can be best described, no airconditioning because of no electricity and no water, no that and no this...etc Yet, the buzz on costs like these of the two senators can give other indications to the stand of the US in Iraq, one of them is: we can't take it anymore, the responsibility in Iraq must be taken by Iraqis! New York Times described Iraq like…”a dark cloud,” “a deep hole,” “a descent into hell,” “an oil fire,” “embers in the night,” “a cancer patient,” “Vietnam,” “South Korea,” “a teenage pregnancy,” “a variable-rate mortgage.” There is more to that, but whether the reader is Iraqi or an American, it doesn't matter anymore... take your pick.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Central Railway Station in Baghdad

Central Railway Station - Baghdad 1959

Central Railway Station - Baghdad 2003

I have been a number of times to this station, I even mentioned that in on one of my trips when I traveled to the beautiful northern city of Mosul with friends from the neighborhood.

As someone put it "Every single man served in the Iraqi army knows this station".

Baghdad Central Railway station is one the distinguished symbols in Baghdad, one of many in lasting love, Iraq.

Books on Iraq

  • A True Story of Bravery and Betrayal in the Iraq War
  • My War
  • The Boys from Baghdad
  • The Last True Story I'll Ever Tel
  • In Foreign Fields
  • Making a Killing
  • Killing Time in Iraq
This is not by any means some free advert for Iraq war books. Most of these titles are of books about soldiers (and people) served by UK and US military during and after the 2003 war in Iraq: Some tells the story of a soldier got lost beheind enemy lines; or those who were face to face with the enemy and like a lion in the middle of fire heroically escaped death or capture; or on a man who worked as as an assassin, or hired killer, or as officially known a "contractors" who protect convoys routes out of Baghdad...etc Some of these books according to their writers are based on true stories, others, did not openly admit it, but the tale goes beyond reality, nothing but fiction that uses true events in Iraq .

In past decade, god only knows how many times I read about stories like these - some of them were about how Saddam's methods on cracking with a first of fire and metal on the heads of poor Iraqi people. On every trip I used to take to the UK and the US, I used to spend some big amount of time searching for books about Iraq and read them with anticipation. Sadly, though, it was 9 out of 10 cases where I realized that such books were just another show like these we used to watch on TV and video tapes when I was a kid.

Since the end of 2003 war and until this very moment, Iraq became the source for political and financial gains. This time and with such books Iraq became the source for the imagination, fantasy, in addition to the story telling aspect for many writers, not to forget what fame and status a strong story from inside Iraq would provide for those who tell it.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Iraqi People!

This is how Iraqi people do when they are in hard and difficult time. This is Iraq I know, where the young give a hand to the old!

There is hope in New Iraq

The Second Life of Babylon

Below is a fellow up article/interview on the story I posted regarding Arts Professor, AlSarmady, who indulged himself in the world of Second Life, very interesting interview and article on the same subject. The original article is here

"Shortly after the airstrikes came streaking into his country but before Saddam Hussein was plucked from a hole in the ground, a young Iraqi student wrote and directed a play. This video documents its second public showing to a thousand Iraqis in September 2003, but the debut was that May. "I was thinking that the drama must act some new things, so I want to study what was not allowed before 4/9/2003," he tells me. That was the day when many in Baghdad celebrated the end of Saddam's regime, and despite his professors' reluctance, the student convinced them to collaborate on his play, which expressed how “Saddam and evil were brothers”, as he puts it to me. "I told them that I have plan to change the theater history in Iraq," he recalls. "It's not easy to do that, but in theory I can talk what I want..."

In September 2003, Second Life was undergoing upheavals of its own. The tax revolt was just winding down, leading to SL's re-birth as a true user-created world a couple months later. And though it may seem strange, it was probably inevitable that the Iraqi student and the virtual world would eventually converge. This year, they finally did: on August 5th, a Resident named "alsarmady Eel" was born. Because by then, the student had become an arts teacher based in Babylon, with an Internet connection that was strong enough for him to discover Second Life, create an account, and reach out of Iraq and touch the metaverse. But only just barely.

Thousands of blogs rage around the topic of Iraq-- though most aren't about Iraqis themselves, who are generally relegated to abstract concepts in a larger debate. This blog is not part of that conversation. In any case, most will agree that this is among the war's most unlikely consequences: one of Second Life's greatest advocates is an Iraqi professor who visits the world in search of Philip Linden, the man he's anointed the inventor of "the 8th art". When he can even log in, that is.

alsarmady Eel discovered Second Life in his research, he tells me, after passing over other 3D chat programs.

"When I discovered Second Life it was a dream," he writes to me in fractured but eager English. (I am interpreting many of his statements, rough hewn as they are through an Internet translator.) Since Professor Eel didn't have a bank card, he created a free account, and explored-- and reveled.

"The second flight is the dream of life, [offering] the possibility of meeting all the people from anywhere [around the] world... and to see how they want to be in the imagination." This led to an insight from his computer terminal in Babylon. "[T]his is very important, what distinguishes Second Life from all previous experiences in the digital world." Now he had a mission, not just for himself, but for the people of his tattered country: "I hope all Iraqis register and I will work to achieve this through the books [I] write about Second Life. It's the last art. This is a fundamental assumption."

This is what he means by calling Second Life the eighth art: "There are seven arts we all know," he argues. "Poetry, painting, music, theater, singing and photography and cinema. And there [are] subsidiary arts graduated from [them], but not as major as the seven arts." All of them are substantially the same, he says, "[B]ut in Second Life, man lives in the world of art through the production of a new digital life, without physical or philosophical borders, such as exist in real life... we have a life in our mind and it's ours, but if we can share it! That is a big move to a better world."

And this is why he is hoping to get in touch with Philip Linden. "NEW life need a new philosophy," he says, "but he is not a god so we have to [create] a philosophy of art!" Professor Eel says he's creating this very thing in his writing, but with limited resources, it's difficult to convey it to anyone outside Iraq, let alone the Lindens. He attempted it with an obscure comment to an unrelated post on Second Life's official blog, a YouTube video scored to Jon Bon Jovi, and most striking, a direct video plea to Philip, who's depicted in a visionary pose-- to which Eel has added the caption: "This man had no idea what he did to the philosophy and the art!"

His dream is to have an institute where he can teach Iraqis about Second Life and its role as a new form of human expression. A Second Life Institute based in Babylon, one of the world's most ancient cities-- capital of Hammurabi, the king who codified the first known written laws of civilization in 1760 B.C.

"Babylon's a safe city," he assures me, "So I can teach the 8th art and Second Life." A supporter of Saddam's removal, he finds fault with much the US has done in his country since 2003, but hopes they'll restore Iraq as they did Germany, after World War II. He thinks Second Life can help in this regard. "Let's don't forget that SL is the United States' front door now!"

But that will require Internet access that is faster and less sporadic than what he has. After several tries, we're unable to meet in-world, even through Movable Life, the web-based SL viewer, and resign ourselves to talking in Skype. One night, however, his Internet connection across the Middle East to San Francisco stabilizes, and for a few minutes, a Babylonian scholar appears at the river near my office:

alsarmady Eel's connection is so poor, he appears like the shell of an avatar, every limb and plane displaying the notorious "Missing Image" message. The reason for this is a mismatch between what I see on my monitor, and his avatar's appearance; due to a bug, the textures of his identity fail to load properly on my computer-- or for that matter, anyone else in Second Life looking at him. (When I tell him this later, he fears that's how all Iraqis will be seen here, ambiguous and unrecognizable.) Trouble is, somewhere in between Iraq and the Western world, what this Iraqi yearns to be is obscured, and lost in transmission. But then again, that is not a problem confined to Second Life."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Iraqi's Second Life!

According to a journalist working for the New York Post, an Iraqi has managed to join the virtual world called "second life". His nickname is AlSarmady, and the full article is below:

"Alsarmady Eel" is the name used in the online world of Second Life by an arts professor who lives in Babylon, Iraq. Last year he joined Second Life because he decided the Internet was, as he puts it, "the 8th art," allowing "people from anywhere . . . to see how they want to be in the imagination."

An appealing notion, one that he'd written extensively about. But because broadband in Iraq is still unreliable, his understanding of this strange virtual world based in San Francisco remained mainly abstract and secondhand. (The few times he was able to log in successfully, he'd just briefly appear as an unresolved blur.)

Last week, however, I received an instant message from Alsarmady Eel, sent within Second Life itself.

"Hahahahah," he announced, after I teleported over to find him standing in a thatched hut by the sea. "From Iraq. Nice to see you here. I got better Internet, but how do I look?"

"Very skinny," I observed.

Professor Eel had managed to find a wireless provider in Iraq, he explained, and though the service was rather pricey, it was worth it. "I am so happy and lost," he said. "Please take me to somewhere I can talk about my theory." I introduced him to some people who write about or express ideas similar to his, including two named Bettina Tizzy and Eshi Otawara.

After some brief introductions, Professor Eel told them what was on his mind. "I am asking the philosophers all over: what philosophy can describe and appropriate explaining this interactive digital life?!"

They continued to talk, but I had to go. I left Alsarmady to get to know his new friends. Then hours after I'd logged out, I discovered something wonderful had happened.

Bettina Tizzy and Eshi Otawara had taken him to a sandbox, so they could show him marvelous virtual objects. "He asked us to do him a favor," Bettina wrote me, "on behalf of all of the people of Iraq: he wanted us to make him a new Iraqi flag."

But Eshi had another idea. "She said, 'No, I will not make your flag, but I will teach you to make your own.' "

So she showed him how to make a banner, then a pole, then how to upload a texture. He worked diligently from his computer terminal in Babylon, and after some time, Alsarmady Eel was done. He raised the flag of his country over this other place in which he'd also become a citizen.

Wagner James Au is the author of "The Making of Second Life: Notes from the New World."

Whether that Iraqi is seeking new adventure by fleeing a relaity and endulge himself to another reality, a virtual one, this is something to be determined, but one thing is for sure, there are some Iraqis who are looking for any means and every means available to catch up with the advanced world of technology in spite of difficulties and barriers in providing normal internet services i.e. broadband connection...etc

Thanks to Iraqi Facebook University for the information.
Link to the article here

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Barbershop Hani

Barbershop Hani

Jump over, and you'll find me!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Painting Of Old Iraq

Image by: Afghan

Visa For Iraqis To The Netherlands

Why don't Dutch embassies - or any other embassy of any other country in the world - do one joint effort and put a big sign at their compounds' main gates, saying "No Visa for Iraqis"? This will really save a lot of time and energy for both the Iraqi who is applying for the visa and for the embassy employee. Most importantly, maybe for the Iraqi, it would save a lot of money!

I realize that the whole world knows about Iraqis who still on the run because of the horrible situation their politicians put them into around the years, but denying them visit visa in such a pathetic way as I am going to explain is something beyond humane!

There are a lot of Iraqis around with Dutch nationality who would love to invite their relatives (sister, brother, aunt...etc) to the Netherlands. The Dutch embassy in Baghdad does not issue visit visas - actually if we look into their website, they don't issue anything related to visas, passport or any other sort documents. In this case, Iraqis should be either have to apply for a visit visa at the Dutch embassy in Amman, Jordan or that one in Damascus, Syria. Entry to both Arab countries became difficult since the end of last year - in the past, anyone can take a taxi or a bus and travel to these two countries. Now Iraqis have to go to either Syrian or Jordanian embassies in Baghdad to apply for an entry visa. They have to pay more than 50 dollars fee and they have to give valid and approved (with written proof) on the reasons they want to enter these two countries. The written proof can be a medical report or school enrollment certificate, or business related authentication. For visit trips to relative to the Netherlands, all embassies would ask for: invitation from Dutch signed and approved by the municiplity of city or twon the invitee from. In additon, three kopies of salary statements must be also submitted with the visa application form and the invitation form. Optionally a letter to the embassy explaining the purpose for the trip can also be sent. All these documents must be first be checked by the Jordanian and Syrian embassies to verify the truth behind that person's applying for entry visa. After a couple of days, a week to the most, an entry visa is granted and that poor Iraqi would be able to travel and arrange a date where he or she would go to the Dutch embassy to submit all these papers, again! Additional to that, some of these embassies ask for more papers, such as, ownership of a property in Iraq and bank statement - according to the law and regulations for applying for a visa, these two are only asked in case someone is applying for a tourist visa and not in case Dutch citizen inviting someone to the Netherlands! However, the Iraqi comply with no objections, thinking that this country has the right to ask anything and acquire anything!

Then comes the interview: it is indeed asking about every single member of the family; about work experience; education; children; marriage date - if married; what is the purpose for the visit? how long is intended to stay? If there are children or relative living in the Netherlands...etc

From all people I heard from and talked with, all of them went through the same experience: bad treatment by the Dutch embassy staff in Jordan and in Syria - consensus on: The way they talk is like talking to a piece of garbage and not a human being; emotionless, faces with no expression; they ignore you or just don't answer you when you ask something - keep head down like they are busy writing notes; and some make fun in a sarcastic way that sometimes hurt the feelings!

After all that degradation, the Iraqi is given a reference number, and asked to call in a month or forty days time to check whether the visa application has been accepted or rejected. The forty days passes by, and many Iraqis waited much longer- months! After that period is completed, a simple answer is received with a written letter: "...not convinced that you are going to leave the territories after your stay permit ends..."

After all that money spent for staying at a place in another country, expenses for food and drink, and visa fees; after all the energy spent in traveling outside Iraq ( some took a leave from their work to arrange their trip, and some just left their families behind thinking that they would go like any human being for a vacation) and the time consuming arranging papers here and there; above all that, the hopes and expectations were becoming higher and higher every day passes by to see relatives after all many years... All this vanished... and the worse part is the bitter experience of being directly or indirectly being looked down at by that embassy employee, as if that Iraqi has no dignity - some sort of a human litter, or as if that Iraqi is begging for that visa!

Return To Eden

Any Iraqi remember these characters in the picture above. One of the most favorite TV shows for many Iraqis during the 1980's. Return to Eden is an Australian TV show about luxury life, money, greed, adultery, love and seduction, but people every night were eager mostly to follow up on the events of Stephanie's (Rebecca Gilling) revenge plan from her unfaithful husband who teamed up with Stephanie's "best" friend to kill her by threwing her to the crocodiles and take over her wealthy family holdings. Stephanie has been rescued by an old man who took care for her till she was fully recovered from her facial and body injuries. After that, Stephanie decide to take revenge but with a risky yet smart plan. She had cunning plastic sergury and was transformed into a very attractive and seductive woman who worked in the fashion business and that's how she would be able to get closer and closer to those who wanted her dead.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year

Artist's Comments: This was a sunrise that we saw in Iraq on New Years Day.