Friday, April 07, 2006

Another Blogger Making a Difference: Zeyad of Healing Iraq

In the Wall Street Journal today, I became acquainted with another hero of the Blogosphere: Zeyad. Zeyad is a blogging dentist from Iran, and he tells it like it is, perhaps giving one of the truest accounts of day-to-day life in Baghdad.

Zeyad is a Sunni agnostic and author of the blog Healing Iraq, and has been writing, providing photos, and even occasional videos since October 2003. That’s certainly not the safest hobby in downtown Baghdad, nor the most common in a city where people are far more likely to choose TNT to IBM, but this doesn’t stop Zeyad from giving the world a real account of life in the war-torn city.

For example, in the March 24th post titled “Lynchings and Holy Wars", Zeyad describes and presents a video of the lynching of the Imam and preacher of the Al-Sabbar mosque, Sheikh Ghazi Al-Zoba’i. The crazy part is the normal life existing around this horrible scene. “You can see children running about, stores open, religious holiday flags and even a traffic jam. Perhaps Ralph Peters will happen to drive by with an American army patrol and enjoy the scene of children cheering for the troops, while wondering where his civil war is, dude.”

April 6, Zeyad wrote a photo-journal of the streets in Baghdad, flooded from the overflowing sewage systems. Perhaps most remarkable is the picture of power transformers (tranducers?) behind iron bars to prevent looters. There is Arabic graffiti which reads: "Enough sabotage with.. (illegible text). Preserve the people's property the same as you preserve your mother and sister. You have no zeal or honour. Your fate is death."

I have lived in cities immersed in civil war before, and I thoroughly believe that the level of chaos in one of these cities is directly related to the amount of power the insurgency or insurgencies hold versus the amount of power held by the government. If the insurgency grows more powerful than the government, life descends into total chaos. This is where Iraq stands now, and life has become unbearable. You have to feel for the residents of the city.

From the same post, Zeyad comments on whether Iraq is in a state of civil war:

Please don’t ask me whether I believe Iraq is on the verge of civil war yet or not. I have never experienced a civil war before, only regular ones. All I see is that both sides are engaged in tit-for-tat lynchings and summary executions. I see governmental forces openly taking sides or stepping aside. I see an occupation force that is clueless about what is going on in the country. I see politicians that distrust each other and continue to flame the situation for their own personal interests. I see Islamic clerics delivering fiery sermons against each other, then smile and hug each other at the end of the day in staged PR stunts. I see the country breaking into pieces. The frontlines between different districts of Baghdad are already clearly demarked and ready for the battle. I was stopped in my own neighbourhood yesterday by a watch team and questioned where I live and what I was doing in that area. I see other people curiously staring in each other’s faces on the street. I see hundreds of people disappearing in the middle of the night and their corpses surfacing next day with electric drill holes in them. I see people blown up to smithereens because a brainwashed virgin seeker targeted a crowded market or café. I see all that and more.

No question, definite food for thought, and important to understanding the nature of the War in Iraq, and the effects of our military incursion there. And what’s more, Zeyad blogs despite tremendous adversity. The Wall Street Journal article speaks to the dangers which Zeyad faces as he writes his blog:

Zeyad used to post his last name and a photo on the site, but security concerns led him to stop. He never writes in Baghdad Internet cafes for fear that a militant might see him writing in English and target him as a collaborator, relying instead on a satellite Internet connection to his house. He speaks with other Iraqi bloggers regularly by email but has never met most of them because of the dangers of trying to gather in one place.

Not only has Zeyad’s level of safety deteriorated, but his views have changed as well:

Zeyad's early essays were full of optimism, but his writings now detail the impact the daily violence is having on his physical and mental well-being. "I used to think that the media wasn't reporting the good news from Iraq, but now I think it's the opposite," Zeyad says in a phone interview. "You have the deportations, kidnappings and sectarian killings. But you don't hear about them. All you hear about are the bombings."

And has a result, the content of his writing has changed:

Zeyad has used his site to detail a growing list of personal tragedies and close calls tied to the war. His younger brother was roughed up by Iraqi soldiers, who saw him fidgeting with his cellphone and assumed he was an insurgent, and several friends had cars or houses damaged in American raids. One of his cousins drowned after U.S. soldiers in the restive city of Samarra ordered him to jump off a bridge over the Tigris River. Zeyad wrote about the case on his site for months until the U.S. military acknowledged wrongdoing and formally reprimanded the four soldiers involved. The day the U.S. response was announced, Zeyad posted an essay titled "Justice."

Zeyad has been invited to the White House. The Washington Post published an op-ed piece on Zayed on March 19th. And Technorati shows 348 blogs linked to Zeyad, putting him in the top .01%. Well, now it’s 349….I’m linking, and I’ll be reading regularly. Zeyad is planning a move to New York to go to school for journalism, but as long as he’s in Iraq, I’m definitely reading.

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Posted by Scottage at 2:14 AM / | |