State of Law, What We Know So Far - 10.02.2009

Although Prime Minister Al-Maliki named his new Coalition for the Parliamentary elections more than 24 hours ago, at a well-attended press conference, we still know very little in terms of specifics. Most analysts, journalists, and bloggers appear to be in agreement that, by and large, Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, thus far, is made up primarily of lesser-known politicians.

The assumption has been that politicians being lesser-known equates with them having less influence. I believe Maliki’s gamble may prove quite successful for his political interests. It was rumored that Al-Maliki had recruited Jawad Al-Bolani and Bolani’s slowly gathering mini-coalition expected to contain Sheikh Abu Risha and Saleh Mutlaqs followers. It was expected these two Sunni leaders would also join the coalition, however they have apparently not agreed as of this writing. This may not be such a loss. Regarding the major concerns facing Iraqis, electricity, basic needs infrastructure, and crime all rate highly in civilian concerns.

You’ll note, if you review our list below, and compare it with Wikipedia’s list of the “Council of Ministers of Iraq,” neither the Electricity Minister Kareem Waheed, Interior Minister Jawad Bolani, Minister of Water Resources, Abdul Latif-Rashid, nor Riad Ghareeb the Minister of Municipalities and Public Works were present within the State of Law Coalition.

The significance of this is larger than the fact that these are big names and players in the Iraqi government. They are also prime targets for blame regarding the lack of progress in Iraq’s security, stability, and infrastructure. Al-Maliki may be truly aiming to revolutionize the state of politics in Iraq, which would be a huge step forward toward the future progress and integrity of the nation. He may also simply be maneuvering himself to maintain the Prime Ministership. To become Prime Minister all he needs to do is deliver enough of a blow to the numbers of the major opposing coalitions that he becomes Kingmaker. Neither of these situations seems unattainable. He’s also perfectly capable of using the appearance of opposition to his former colleagues in the United Iraqi Alliance for his own political gain.

Given all of these conditions, let’s take a look at what we know about his coalition so far. The best initial roundup I’ve found comes from Al-Sumaria TV.

Firstly it should be know surprise that Hussein Shahristani, the Oil Minister followed the Prime Minister, nor that Education Minister Khudayr Al-Khuza’i followed, as he is a member of Maliki’s own Dawa Party.

Shaykh Khaled Abather al-Attiyah (also transliterated as Attia) is an Iraqi politician who was elected in December 2005 to the Council of Representatatives as an independent member of the United Iraqi Alliance.

On 22 April 2006 he was elected First Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi National Assembly.

Khaled is just one of several members of the United Iraqi Alliance which, while he is only a single independent, in total serve to chip away at the new INA’s potential.

Dr. Salih Mahdi Motlab al-Hasnawi is an Iraqi doctor and politician, who has been the Minister of Health since 30 October 2007. He is a Shi’ite Muslim, but independent of any political party.

Ahtan Abbas No’man, yet another member of the United Iraqi Alliance has been the Tourism Minister since July 2007, after taking over from a Sadrist who was removed from the position in April 2007.

Mahmoud Mohammed al-Radhi is an Iraqi politician from the religious Shi’ite Arab-led Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, and the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs since May 2006.

In June 2007, he strongly criticised the United States Army for publishing pictures of severely malnourished children in a Baghdad orphanage. He accused the soldiers of setting up the photographs and using tricks to “show the Americans as the humanitarian party”. He said it was “a media fabrication exploited by forces opposed to the government”.

Abdul Samad Sultan, a representative of the Fayli Kurd segment of the United Iraqi Alliance is the Minister of Displacement and Migration. Will assisting Iraqis outside the country to return, and success in resettling displaced Iraqis help Maliki’s coalition? It remains to be seen, but certainly I feel that may have as much of an impact as Sultan’s Kurdish heritage.

Jasim Mohammed Jaafar (born 1958) (Turkish: Casim Muhammed Cafer) is the Iraqi Minister for Youth & Sports in the government of Nouri al-Maliki. He was confirmed by the Iraqi National Assembly on 2006-05-20, having previously served as the Minister for Construction and Housing in the Iraqi Transitional Government.

Jaafar may pull a small portion of the Kurdish Alliance, but the Turkmen minority are a small but vocal portion of Iraq’s populace. More influential will be whether Maliki can convince the Kurdish Change List that they should join his coalition. It’s unlikely there would be any agreement with the larger PUK and KDP parties, due to disagreements over the autonomy of the Kurdish region and the control of Kirkuk in particular.

Safa al-Din Mohammed al-Safi is an Iraqi politician who has been acting Justice Minister in the government of Nouri al-Maliki since April 2007. Since May 2006 he has also been Minister of State for Council of Representatives Affairs.

The recent release of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq members, as well as other efforts toward reconciliation may encourage support for Maliki’s list, however it could backfire if citizens blame Maliki’s inaction, or improper action, too much for ongoing crime.

Other members present were mentioned elsewhere.

According to USA Today, Khalid al-Yawer, the leader of minor Sunni political party in the western Anbar province, said that he decided to back al-Maliki, because he seemed serious about reaching beyond the Shiite community.

USA Today also mentioned, Tribal leaders from several provinces, several influential clerics and a Chaldean Catholic archbishop, were among those who attended al-Maliki’s announcement.

Which brings us to the much touted addition of Sheikh Hatem Al-Suleiman, a leader of the Dulaimi tribe, likely to have much influence in Anbar and within the Sunni tribal community. His presence could split the apparent allegiance of Sunnis to a collective Awakening Bloc, or a more Sunni-specific bloc in general. Despite some reports otherwise, it does not appear that his fellow Sunni, Ahmed Abu Risha, was present, although there are rumors that he is still being approached to join the coalition.

Roads to Iraq also mentioned a few others who were present, Ali Al-Dabbagh’s Ka’fat Party, the Iraqi Arab Bloc led by Abdul Karim Alabtan, Jumu’a based in Salahuddin and led by Sabhan Al-Janabi, Mehdi Hafidh’ Al-Tajamu’a, and the Turkmen Islamic Union, led by Abbas al-Bayati.

Maliki Coalition, Less Than Expected - 10.01.2009

Although there has been hesitance, today several outlets reported on Prime Minister Maliki’s announcement of the formation of the State of Law Coalition. Unfortunately the reports are distressingly similar, and appear to reflect previous analysis and it almost appears that the journalists of Associated Press and Agence France Presse shared their notes and wrote essentially the same article!

As Reidar Visser observes, “Maliki’s list represents considerable progress, although it was not quite as wide-ranging as some had hoped for.”

Reidar’s report was taken from reading Arabic language reports on the press conference, which had a bit more detail. Unfortunately Prime Minister’s Daawa Party had not released the full list of participants in the coalition as of this writing.

The New York Times, to its credit, makes a similar point to Reidar, at least thus far, the Coalition represents few “truly national leaders.

The Washington Post points out that Mahmoud Mashadani and Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, once thought certain supporters of the Prime Minister, have recently withdrawn their support. However, the presence of Ali Hatem Al-Suleiman is telling and will likely be a factor in ongoing negotiations to bring in Sunni leaders.

On the other hand, every English article seems to oversimplify Shi’a politics, as per usual. Ignoring the entwined history of Daawa and the Sadr Movement is done at the peril of accurate political analysis and prediction. Furthermore, I continue to believe the release of so-called “Asaib Ahl Al Haq” members may be playing one of several lesser-seen, but fundamentally important actions by Prime Minister Maliki to influence the election, as well as providing continuing potential for Muqtada Al-Sadr’s followers to have a place at the table.

The “leadership” of this faction has close ties to the Muhammad Baqr Sadr, who is also the ideological father of the Daawa. If Prime Minister Maliki can bring some of the looser Sadrists into his coalition, which is still possible, with at least three months before the election, he may be able to pull in the votes he needs. If State of Law is given the first chance to form the new Iraqi government, whether or not Abu Risha, any more Kurds, or Saleh Mutlaq’s post-Baathist group join, I believe its more likely they will fall in with the Prime Minister than the Iraqi National Alliance.

What the press seems to miss is that the makeup of the “List” doesn’t matter as much as the likelihood that secularists and nationalists would rather see a non-sectarian nationalist government headed by Al Maliki. Despite the perception of some that Maliki may be something of a little Saddam, Ammar al-Hakim, though not his father, is an unknown quantity, while his backers, with a long history of ties to Iran, are not.

New Media Could Reweave Iraq’s Social Fabric - 09.29.2009

As most of you know, my focus has been on Iraq for quite some time. Increasingly it has also drifted into how to further leverage “new media” strategies and “web 2.0″ technologies to increase our reach with a shrinking budget, among other difficulties.

Although a State Department trip earlier this year was sold to the media as a trip where new media experts “will provide conceptual input as well as ideas on how new technologies can be used to build local capacity, foster greater transparency and accountability, build upon anti-corruption efforts, promote critical thinking in the classroom, scale-up civil society, and further empower local entities and individuals by providing the tools for network building.”

The media’s breathless excitement in covering this interesting new take on the Iraq conflict failed to mention how Iraqis such as Salam Pax, Raed Jarrar, and “Riverbend” to name a few began using “new media” to tell their stories from the beginning of the conflict in Iraq.

More than two years ago we heard another innovative story about Iraqis utilizing Google Maps to share information about checkpoints and sectarian violence around Baghdad. Although many Iraqis have adopted and adapted digital media tools to fit their special needs, there are still many who would benefit from learning more about new media.

In particular journalists in Iraq, as in many other countries, despite the limitations of technology, internet access, and even basic infrastructure in some cases(such as Iraq!) there are many ways new media could be utilized to improve their reach.

Unfortunately language is a major limitation for promoting stories from the Middle East internationally. Most blogs in English have tended to reflect a small subset of the Iraqi populace, typically the wealthy and educated. News sites that are produced in English by Iraqis, typically do not utilize RSS much less other new media opportunities available to them.

By integrating technologies that emphasize open distribution, such as YouTube or where high-quality videos can be distributed easily and embedded in other websites, agencies producing video content could dramatically broaden their visibility. There are no doubt risks involved, including potentially economic loss by opening access to their content. The enthusiasts and supporters of new media encourage transparency and openness as measures that grow the audience and increase visibility, thus agencies may be able to bring in greater revenue from advertising and sponsorship.

Journalists that produce audio content are coming closer and closer to a world where the convergence of technology, rather than leading to the death of radio, may be extending and encouraging the survival of this niche market. With only a mobile phone a journalist, or a “citizen journalist” who witnesses a bombing, a killing, or even street crime can make a short phone call and create an audio podcast. In fact, with this method they can report on the event live via audio updates posted to the web to an audience only limited by distribution, presence, and interest.

Using the same phone the said individual could conceivably take photos to provide realtime images from the scene. None of this is possible without also opening up the architecture of the distribution point itself. Today, with only a phone, Iraqis could be publishing reports that in 2006 and 2007 might have greatly reduced instances of sectarian violence, by reporting via SMS, MMS, audio, or email the location of a checkpoint or occupation of empty houses by militia elements.

Although widespread sectarian violence has dissipated for the moment, new media still has a place in Iraq. by increasing the participation of the citizenry in the media. This and expanding the reach and depth of coverage produced by Iraqi journalists can help restore bonds and rebuild communities. Transparency provides more than just visibility and access to news. Effective use of transparency and access can produce a wider faith in the strength of the social system and, potentially, the faith citizens have in their government to provide for their needs.

Rising Crime an Opportunity for Sadr? - 09.28.2009

In 2003, as Baghdad, and indeed all of Iraq, plunged into chaos, Muqtada Sadr and other local Shi’a leaders rose to the challenge. Despite their obligation to provide security, the occupation authority disregarded this obligation, and potentially helped fuel the insurgency and the Shi’a Mahdi Army militia.

As I wrote previously, when the monopoly on violence, coercion, and security disappear, as occurred in March and April 2003 with the invasion of Iraq, communities fragment. Citizens seek out leaders, solutions for security, and collective protection. Because the United States and the Multinational Forces failed to provide leadership and solutions, locals turned to the leaders they knew, often this meant religious leaders.

Organizations such as the Sadr Movement and the Sunni Endowment and Association of Muslim Scholars were prepared with communications networks and quickly expanded their influence with the equipping of security networks, i.e. militias.

In the fall of 2003, when Paul Bremer officially disbanded the Iraqi Army he dismantled the last best solution to forestall these militias. The connection between Paul Bremer’s decree and the insurgency is usually examined simplistically, with analysis discussing the loss of force and the insidious call of religion. I would argue that individuals were seeking authority, security, and direction.

Crime became virtually unheard of in Sadr City, for example, after the establishment of the Mahdi Army. While the United States was busy fighting Sunni nationalists, jihadists, and, indeed, remnants of the Iraqi Baath Party, the Mahdi Army in Sadr City and elsewhere, the Kurdish Peshmerga in northern Iraq, and forces of the Badr Brigades in southern Iraq began filling the holes left by the collapse of the State.

By 2004 the decision of Multinational Forces and in particular the CPA to ally itself with the exiled Iraqi dissidents began to have an impact not only on the intransigent Sunni branch of the insurgency, but was further radicalizing the Sadr Movement and the Mahdi Army. Although there were many options for promoting reconciliation and bringing certain elements in from the cold, Paul Bremer appeared almost to take disagreements with Muqtada Sadr as personal affronts. The order to arrest Muqtada as well as other respected leaders of the Sadr Movement proved too much for the leader to tolerate.

In the spring of 2004 the Mahdi Army took up arms and even began discussions with Sunni elements of the insurgency. The second front became difficult for Multinational Forces to account for. Unfortunately, having bet all their chips on Iraqi exiles who were practically foreigners to their countrymen, it was increasingly difficult to organize productive negotiations.

By 2006 the marginalization of the Mahdi Army, rather than detente and reconciliation, pushed them to become more and more radical. The support of outside elements such as Iran became more and more appealing and even necessary to the continuance of the organization. Some elements turned to crime and smuggling in order to finance their operations. When the Askariya Shrine bombing occurred the transition was complete. Previously fighters and citizens alike recognized the authority of Muqtada Sadr and the Sadr Movement’s principles, but at that moment it seems to have become clear that even this accepted authority was not enough to protect the community. Instead the community further fragmented, and an reinforcing cycle of tit-for-tat violence gripped Baghdad as well as elsewhere in Iraq.

In another way this urged Sunnis back toward the State, as they desperately needed to find someone to support and protect them from the unleashed vengeance of the Shi’a community. They initially formed neighborhood watch groups to defend their neighborhoods, eventually these kinds of groups were brought in from the cold as the “Sons of Iraq.”

Although eventually Muqtada Sadr reasserted control over many of these elements, it wasn’t until Prime Minister Al-Maliki asserted his own sovereignty and control of the Iraqi state in 2008 that a change began to appear. After Al-Maliki’s operations, it appears that Iraqis are widely tending back toward recognition of the Iraqi State as sovereign and a provider of security and stability.

Unfortunately it’s beginning to look as though Al-Maliki really can’t back up his gamble. Crime is on the rise even in Sadr City where, even at the height of Iraq’s chaos crime was virtually unheard of in this district. Combine the ever-present lack of services, six years into the war and occupation, the decimation of a once-respected community leadership, with what now appears to be rising crime directly connected to this decimation, and Prime Minister Maliki may be facing another perfect storm of fragmentation.

Though it seems like a strange time to release 147 militants connected to the Sadr Movement, given the risk of destabilization facing Al-Maliki in the run-up to the elections, perhaps there is a deal between the erstwhile Prime Minister and the released partisans?

Alliances Shift with Security - 09.26.2009

In 2003, after the “fall of Baghdad” or, as Iraqis refer to it, the “fall of the regime” “????? ??????” pronounced “As-sikoot al-nadaam” chaos reigned in the capital. At the time Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed questions of responsibility with the flippant, now infamous statement, “Stuff happens. Freedom is untidy.

The speed with which the Iraqi Army, and the Iraqi State disappeared shocked the world, but perhaps not nearly as much as the violence, looting, and rioting that met the arrival of US troops. Unfortunately, rather than making attempts to understand why these things might happen, too often the international community has looked at events such as transpired with the disdainful eye that one uses to examine the Other.

In 2003 Iraqis rioted because of the utter destruction of the accepted social order. Within a matter of days the illusion of control with which Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq for more than 20 years was revealed for what it was.

Perhaps demonstrating the accuracy of Mr. Rumsfeld’s statements, Iraqis continued ro demonstrate the messiness of their freedom, and their unwillingness to return to the status quo, Iraqis were rioting days after the statements at a bank in Baghdad, and rioted to greet the new governor of Mosul, they rioted over poor infrastructure, and they were still rioting six months later demanding back pay.

Although the implication has been that these were the actions of desperate, ignorant, or savage people (even organized acts by the old regime!) there is another explanation.. What if these are simply understandable symptoms of the utter destruction of an accepted social order? What if these are evidence of citizens, humans, pushing the limits, attempting to discover the rules of the new social order?

In 2005 it appeared Iraq’s social order was reaching a manner of equilibrium, there was the occupation, and there was the resistance. The State may not have existed with a monopoly on coercion and violence, it could be said that there was something of a stalemate between the various competing interests. Some, myself included, might even suggest that the resistance elements were having such success with the establishment of a new social order that there was the risk they might succeed in supplanting the US Occupation as the accepted authority.

In the fall of 2005, just after the referendum on Iraq’s new constitution, preparations were being made for the December elections. Many of the resistance groups and Iraqis in general expected the United States would withdraw after these elections. There were rumors that the various elements of the resistance, from loose affiliations of Sunni insurgents, to the highly organized Al-Mahdi Army of Muqtada Al Sadr, were negotiating toward a collective agreement about administering Iraq in the aftermath of the withdrawal.

In 2006, with the bombing of the Askariya Shrine in Samarra, this fragile new social order was also destroyed. The more radical elements of the Mahdi Army, and Sunni groups in particular Tawhid & Jihad, among others, gained the perfect opportunity to push their agenda of ethnic warfare. 2006 and much of 2007 saw Iraq slipping ever closer to civil war. Ethnic cleansing appeared ever more likely, as did an all-out internecine conflict between Shi’a groups.

This was possible because of competing interests and the success of some at delegitimting the Iraqi state. Until recently a measure of calm had returned to Baghdad and much of Iraq. I would argue that this is due to several factors; the appeasement of Sunni groups via the establishment of the Awakening, providing military support to these groups to defeat more extreme groups, the appeasement of Muqtada al-Sadr, the confrontations last year with the extreme Shi’a elements, and lastly the hard line Prime Minister Maliki has appeared to take with the United States, in particulr regarding the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Fortunately, the recent Iraqi experience provides many lessons for Iraqi, American, and international politicians alike. Demonstration of Iraqi sovereignty has done a great deal to build the confidence of Iraqi citizens in their nation. More needs to be done to demonstrate the control and reliability of Iraqi security forces to eliminate crime and gang activity.

However, no amount of sovereignty or security will succeed longterm without reconciliation amongst the citizenry of Iraq. Perhaps its time to examine more carefully the potential of an international reconciliation effort in Iraq?

Alive in Baghdad, What’s Next? - 09.23.2009

Many of you likely first heard of Small World News through our work on Alive in Baghdad, a web series produced by local Iraqi journalists in the midst of the ongoing Iraq conflict. Given all of our recent activity outside Iraq, in Afghanistan, Iran, Honduras, etc. you may be wondering what’s up with the Iraq project.

As I wrote recently, one of our difficulties in the last months has been that our Bureau Chief Omar was in hiding in Syria, due to threats related to his work with Alive in Baghdad. He’s since been relocated to Sweden, leaving us without a full-time coordinator in the region. We are also in the process of rethinking how we move forward with Iraq coverage. As Iraq coverage continues to flag, despite the continuing presence of international forces and violence, it is a priority for us to return to regular coverage as well as analysis from Iraq.

Unfortunately with a flagging budget and recent staff losses, we have to figure out how to do Alive in Baghdad smarter, more effective and with more ease. All along our work on Alive in Baghdad has been very time-intensive. This is one of the difficulties inherent in producing documentary and news video. These difficulties are further exacerbated by the necessity of lengthy translations and coordinating staff across multiple countries and timezones.

We have been examining the integration of other social media and journalism tools within the Alive in Baghdad website. Specifically, with the coming Iraqi parliamentary election in January 2010 we hope to implement a process similar to our recent coverage of the Afghan election. We will crowdsource updates from Iraqis, and others present in Baghdad and around Iraq. We plan on integrating mobile submission as well as semi-realtime content.

We will temporarily shift gears, rather than focusing on a few highly produced videos each month, we hope to begin producing a variety of content, primarily short video clips, but possibly audio discussions, as well as photos, and written analysis, in particular examining events leading up to the elections.

We look forward to your comments and critiques, and welcome suggestions about how we can further involve the audience in our coverage of Iraq. We will also continue to need your support. Although we have a small amount of funds in our bank account, we will not be able to continue sustaining Alive in Baghdad, or build our other projects such as Alive in Afghanistan without your help. If you can support us with a one time donation, please do. If you are able to commit to a recurring amount, it would be a huge help to our work. We are currently investigating options for long-term and sustainable funding, but anything donated via PayPal from our audience will go directly to local producers and will not be subject to overhead costs to run support our American contributors.

Brian Conley writes about ending up in Chinese Prison… - 09.05.2008

Over at our company blog, you can read all about Brian Conley’s experience in China, including his detention. Here’s a link to the first installment, more to come soon!

Why did I end up in Chinese Prison? part 1

A Letter from Ali Shafeya’s Sister - 12.18.2007

What follows is a letter that Ali Shafeya Al-Moussawi’s sister asked us to present to our audience and everyone who contributed to help fund Ali’s funeral and support his family. They are very grateful for the support and wanted to thank everyone directly.

??? ?? ?? ??? ???????? ??? ??????? ???????

???? ??? ????? ?? ??? ?? ???? ? ?? ??? ?? ?????? ??????? , ??? ??? ????? ? ????? ???? ??? ??????? ???????? ???? ??? ????? ? ???? ??? ??? ???? ???????? ????????? ?? ??????
??? ??? ????? ? ???? ????? ??? ?? ?????? ??? ????? , ????? ??????? ? ??????? ???? ? ?????? ?? ?? ??? ? ??? ???? ?????? ??? ??????? ???? ????? ??????

????? ??????
??? ???? ???????

To all who sent their condolences after our painful tragedy,

Thank you all from where you are and from where you sent your condolences, Ali is your son and your brother, thank you for feeling our disaster that happened to us and to all the Iraqis in Iraq.

Ali died as a martyr and his memory will continue living in our hearts forever. Pray for mercy and forgiveness upon Ali and remember him everywhere, and one more time thank you for your feelings that warmed our hearts.

The family of the Martyr
Ali Shafeya Al-Moussawi has not listed Ali in the Journalists Killed in 2007, why? -

Ali Shafeya was killed on December 14th. I’ve listed the details of his death below as they appear on Alive in Baghdad’s blog. We’re determined to continue and will be raising money for the future of Alive in Baghdad via a new ChipIn widget soon. We raised $2500 to cover the costs of his funeral and support the family. We hope you will continue to support Alive in Baghdad as it continues. You can also call the Committee to Protect Journalists and ask why they did not list Ali Shafeya in their annual list of Journalists killed in 2007. Here is their phone number: 212-465-1004

Thanks again for all your support.

Ali Shafeya, AIB Special Correspondent Killed at Home - 12.15.2007

Ali Shafeya Al-Moussawi was born in 1984 on December 16th, he was killed on December 14th, 2007.

We are collecting donations for the funeral and his family. You can make a donation via Paypal to smallworldnews (at) . If you would like to make a donation by mail or via a different payment service please email us directly at the previous address. We have raised nearly $600 until now, but more will help. His mother and sister are displaced Iraqis leaving in Syria without employment.

Ali lived in Habibya, it’s considered as a part of the Sadr city. On Friday the 14th at 11:30pm Baghdad time, Iraqi National Guard forces raided the street where Ali’s house is, one of the neighbors heard a gun firing after 15 minutes from the arrival of the Iraqi National Guard convoy to the street, the force left at 3:00am. His neighbors kept calling Ali’s phone and it was switched off all the time, so they called his cousin Amar because he lives one block away from where Ali lives.

Amar arrived in Ali’s house and found Ali shoot dead in the living room, Amar called the Iraqi Police and told them the story as he heard it from Ali’s neighbors. At 8:30 am Baghdad time the Iraqi Police took Ali’s body to the morgue, his two uncles received the body at 10:00am and they headed to Najaf to bury him.

Amar said the neighbor who lives in the front of his house was shot dead too during that raid, the guy’s name is Hussein and he is 26 years old. He was in his place along with his brother and nephew. The brother and the nephew disappeared after the convoy left.

The morgue report says that Ali took 31 bullets between the chest and the head and died immediately. He will be missed and remembered. His two brothers were killed in the Firdos Square bombing in 2005. He is survived by his mother and sister. As written above, we are collecting donations for his family via Paypal and mail at smallworldnews (at) No amount is too small, and anything will be appreciated.

Adhamiya Dispatch #4 - 11.15.2007

[Editor’s note: This is Alaa’s newest update on the unfolding situation in Adhamiya. You can now see some photos, courtesy of IraqSlogger’s hosting, we’ll also post a link to the article but you’ll have to become a paying subscriber to view the article.]

On Wednesday Al Sahwa troops arrested some more Al-Qa’eda fighters yesterday in Aadhamiya and they were taken to the US troops.

Everyday now the United States forces in Adhamiya are finding more and more roadside bombs being left at car parkinglots or near the parks, or other places, and they are detonating them for disposal.

Some of the people Aadhamiya think that the insurgents have done this because they have no way now to use these things, because al-Sahwa forces know them well and they also know where these insurgents have been hidning their devices.

Now some news about the locations of checkpoints around Adhamiya:

They put them everywhere in Adhamiya, from the north at Omar Street, and to the south in Anteer Square and from the east at Al-Kam to the west at Al Numan Hospital.

Also they are in all the major streets and sometimes three or four checkpoints in the same street if it is a long one like Omar street and Al-Thubbat street and when you move by car in Adhamiya now you have to leave the car in every street to get searched by Al-Sahwa. With this plan there is no way for anyone or any insurgents to bring a bomb or put the bomb in the streets so that make a kind of security for now in Adhamiya, and some of the shops have begun to open again and normal life is returning, step by step.

And about Abu hanifa mosque, most of the Imams were threatened by Al-Qa’eda and now they are in Syria and there is just a young Imam now there and he has not enough power to change any of this situation.

Here are some links to photos of the events in Adhamiya by Ali Yussef of the AFP, courtesy of Iraq Slogger:

and here is the article itself on IraqSlogger:

and this round-up of Iraqi Papers also has some coverage of Al-Sahwa in Adhamiya:

Adhamiya Dispatch #3 - 11.14.2007

[Editor’s note: This is Alaa’s newest update on the unfolding situation in Adhamiya. We will continue to cover the activities there as best we can, and update you when the rest of the media begin releasing their own coverage. Look for a longer article coming soon as well.]

When Al-Sahwa came into the streets a few days ago, most of Al-Qaedq hid their bombs and car bombs and other explosives material in one of the car parking areas in Adhamiya. Just yesterday, November 13, US troops found these bombs, with the help of Al-Sahwa, and destroyed them. So now more than six car bombs and more than fifteen roadside bombs were destroyed by US troops in the same day. The work for eliminating these bombs took more than eight hours from 12:00 that is, noon, until at least 8:30 pm.

Alive in Baghdad on Johnny’s Partay Wednesday the 13th! - 11.13.2007

This is just a note to let our readers and viewers know that Brian Conley will be on Johnny’s Partay this Wednesday, November 13th. Come watch and join in the discussion. You can ask Brian questions via chat, or via live webcam if you have an Operator 11 account!

Check out Johnny’s post about the event, to learn how you can participate and engage in discussion! If you have questions for Brian about Alive in Baghdad’s work, or stories you’d like to suggest, come join in!

Adhamiya Dispatch #2 -

[Editor’s note: This is Alaa’s newest update on the unfolding situation in Adhamiya.]

Al-Sahwa forces start arrested anyone who has worked with Al-Qa’eda before, because some Al-Qa’eda members began to work with Al-Sahwa and they arrested more than 20 of them. After these arrests, the members who joined from Al-Qa’eda guided the US Troops to some roadside bombs and helped the US troops to destroy it and they destroyed more than six bomb in diferent places in Adhamiya, and also destroyed one of the carbombs yesterday night.

And US troops asked the people of Adhamiya to come and join the Adhamiya people’s police station to be protected by people from Adhamiya and yesterday 200 of them go and joined the police and they will be taken to the Police acadimy next week, as I hear from my source .

Adhamiya Dispatch #1 - 11.11.2007

[Editor’s Note: Right now the “Awakening” forces, something between a tribal militia and an organized local counter-insurgency force, has begun making greater public moves against Al-Qa’eda and other insurgent forces, with the assistance of the US and Iraqi armed forces. I’ll be posting short updates each day as received from correspondent Alaa who lives in Adhamiya and is in the middle of the Al-Sahwa operation there.]

Today, November 11th, Al-Sahwa forces started arresting some people who work like criminals before. Those arrested were given to the custody of US troops. As well, they arrested two persons who have been killing people and committing some robberies and kidnappings.

Last, there was some small fighting between Al-Sahwa forces and Al-Qa’eda members today, in the early morning of the 11th, between 2:00am and 3:00am. At least one of Al-Sahwa members was killed in this fight.

Al-Sahwa Confronts Al-Qaeda in Adhamiya - 11.10.2007

[Editor’s Note: This entry is written with notes from a conversation with correspondent Alaa, who is based in the Adhamiya neighborhood of Baghdad. Today The US forces, along with new volunteers for what has been called the “Awakening,” or Al-Sahwa, entered Adhamiya in the open for the first time, and this is Alaa’s account of what happened.]

Alaa is one of our new correspondents based in Adhamiya, he has been unable to produce material for awhile now, because of the dangerous times in Adhamiya lately. He has reported to me in the past of a secret war going on between Al-Sahwa and Al-Qa’eda, killings happening in secret, with both groups targetting people for assassination or capture.

Today, for the first time Al-Sahwa came to Adhamiya in force and in the open. Apparently members of Al-Sahwa went to the Abu Hanifa Mosque, where most of Adhamiya’s leadership can be found, to request their assistance in fighting Al-Qa’eda in the neighborhood. Alaa emailed me today about this, and I called him today to get a better account by phone. This event does not seem to have been reported elsewhere in the media yet, and we believe Alive in Baghdad may have the first account of the Adhamiya “Awakening Council” establishing itself by force and in the open in Adhamiya.

Here it is in Alaa’s own words:

“They surrounded Adhamiya, like a wall, they were supported by the US and Iraqi troops, and there was more than 150 soldiers of Al-Sahwa forces. they came at the same time, setting up checkpoints, challenging Al-Qa’eda by firing in the air to frighten them. They fired in the air and waited for Qa’eda and Al-Qa’eda fought at first, but then they stopped after just a few minutes, maybe Al-Qa’eda changed their mine and they will fight in another time.

Al-Sahwa troops have just some small guns like the Kalashnikov and BKC, simple guns, but you know Al-Qaeda is armed with the RPG, but there are just a few numbers of Al-Qa’eda [in Adhamiya now] and a large number of Al-Sahwa. They have a lot of support from the Americans, so I think that is why Qa’eda changed and just disappeared, and Al-Sahwa made new checkpoints in Adhamiya.

They are checking each of the cars on the road, searching everything. But Adhamiya’s people think there will be more fighting with Qa’eda fighters in the near future. And for sure Qa’eda will fight, because Al-Sahwa forces have a list of names, and they arrested 20 people already. This will make a bigger problem in the next days.

The Adhamiya people started to hate Qa’eda because they are killing Shi’a people without reason, and they are just killing people and murdering, and butchering people and tha’ts why they started to hate them. Also, you know some of Al-Sahwa force is from Adhamiya, they hide their faces-but we know they are from Adhamiya, because they are joking with some people in the streets.

They hide their faces, but we know they are from Adhamiya. Al-Qa’eda is still here, and working in secret, but Al-Sahwa will finish Al-Qa’eda. I think they will disappear like in Ramadi, maybe this will be the last few weeks for Qa’eda in Adhamiya.”

Alive in Baghdad News and Press! - 10.25.2007

A friend sent me a link to this article in the Hollywood Reporter this morning. So apparently ABC thinks what we’re doing is viable and the future of at least some portion of news. Make no mistake, we started opening new foreign bureaus in Summer 2006 with the establishment of a weekly program produced in Iraq.

We’re happy to see that other media are following our lead, now we hope a savvy investor will recognize we’re doing it better than the old media, and cheaper. How? The answer to both is the same, we employ locals with local knowledge and relationships. ABC is still insisting on sending foreign nationals trained and salaried at ABC into the field. Hiring foreign nationals is expensive, and they don’t have the same local contacts and networks.

I hope this is good news for our work and that we’ll be able to locate individuals or organizations/investors to collaborate with at the Networked Journalism Summit next week, given this news and of course our own track record.

On the funding side, we’ve raised about $800 so far, which is approximately 1/3rd of our expenses to cover Baghdad staff and necessities. Please consider making a subscription payment if you haven’t yet, and you appreciate our work. Also remember Alive in Mexico needs your support as well!

Alive in Baghdad is Broke, *OR*

No, I’m Not Going to Podcast & New Media Expo - 09.25.2007

I keep getting asked whether or not I’m going to Podcast and New Media Expo in Ontario California. I guess its time to let the cat out of the bag. Alive in Baghdad and Alive in Mexico, the two entities which are part of Small World News, have been on life support since the end of July, when Next New Networks decided three months was enough time to see if Alive in Baghdad: Uncut could sink or swim. Apparently it couldn’t. We understand that NextNew might not be the best place for AiB, and that the news doesn’t make money, but we’ve been hoping we could find some killer deal that would keep us going.

Really we’ve been on life support longer than that. Although we had a huge windfall when we licensed some of our content to SkyNews, BBC Newsnight, and CurrentTV, we’ve not been able to repeat those deals or bring in anything similar.

We’ve been consistently told that our content is some of the most serious and respectable work being done in web video. We’ve also been consistently told that no one wants to sponsor it or advertise against it, because its too much of a downer, among other reasons. We had one sponsorship, from, who wasn’t afraid to be associated with hard journalism in the fun and geeky web video world. This lasted 3 months, and was brought to us with much appreciation from

So we’ve initiated a program of voluntary paid subscriptions, where our viewers can choose to give us 5, 10, or 25 dollars per month, because they felt our work was important, necessary, and worth paying for. Particularly we expected it might be worth paying for in an age where the consumer doesn’t have to pay for the news, because it is already bought and paid for, by advertisers, corporations, and others.

Now its September 25th, and when our bills come due on October 1st, we’ll be out of money. We’ve been paying ourselves a meager salary to get by because we do this full-time, while also paying a fluctuating staff of 5-8 overseas in Iraq and Mexico, between our translator, Baghdad bureau chief, and correspondents. It seems our big failure is that we are ahead of our time. Less flatteringly, neither did we have enough business sense to have a model for making money before we tried to change the quality of video journalism available online. There may be media democracy for the wealthy and privileged of the first world, but they appear unwilling to pay a few dollars to support that democracy in the developing world.

We’re still hoping that our viewers will come through and provide monthly support to us on a voluntary basis. Our correspondents want to keep producing their videos, providing the world a window into life in Baghdad. Without a monthly salary however, it will become very difficult for the sons, brothers, and fathers, who bring you Alive in Baghdad each week to continue their work.

Ask yourself, do you want to know what’s going on in Iraq? Do you want to have a way to see inside life in Baghdad? Do you think its important to hear about the war from the civilians affected in Iraq? If you answered yes to any of these, can you afford to skip a beer each month, or a few gallons of gas, or a movie? If you still answered yes, then sign up here for a voluntary subscription donation to Alive in Baghdad. If you can’t do that, in the near future you may need to find another Iraq video blog to subscribe to.

The Iraq Surge - Some Reflections on the Surge… - 09.12.2007

[Editor’s note, Omar Abdullah, our Baghdad Bureau coordinator, interviewed a few Iraqis from different neighborhoods to gauge their opinion of the results of the Surge.]

One of the main changes in Iraq during the last six months is the United States ‘Surge’ in Baghdad. The security plan was supposed to make a better Iraq and a better future, and I don’t know why, but for some reason there was no better Iraq or better future. This is not just my opinion, it is according to the people I interviewed from different places in Baghdad by phone after six months of the surge, and they did not see any improvements in Iraq’s condition, but they saw something else and here is some of the things they saw until now…

Abu Ahmed, 56 years old, is married with fours kids and he lives in Sadr city in Baghdad:

“I think that the surge was not a good thing to be done in Baghdad. So many raids happened in my neighborhood, and nothing changed. I think that what should have been done by the Iraq government, along with the help of the US forces, is disarming all of the militias based in Baghdad, to maintain the security there. Not only raiding houses at nighttime, and those houses of Iraqi civilians, not of insurgents. Like for example, a US raid happened near my house, and the US forces came along with the INGs[Iraqi National Guard soldiers] and they raided the house of a man I’ve known for a long time, and he had only daughters and no boys at all, but they entered his house after midnight and they scared the women in there and broke the doors and nothing was found there! And after they were done with that they just moved on and said ‘We are sorry,’ and I don’t know what is the point of being sorry after they scared the women and broke their doors and made them face the wall for four hours, so what kind of Surge is that? Is it for helping Iraqis or is it for terrorizing Iraqis? And what else, lots of bombings are happening by US missiles in some neighborhoods, but they say that they were targeting some members in the Mahdi army? I don’t know what to say because I’ve run out of words for now, and I will leave the answer to Mr. Bush because I am sure that he knows the answer very well.”

And I had another interview with a different man from Baghdad, but he lives on the other side of Baghdad, in the Abu Ghraib neighborhood, which is considered a Sunni neighborhood and an extremist one. I am sorry to use that word extremist, but it’s good to show some of these people’s opinion also.

Sa’eed Muhammad Al-Janabi, he is 49 years old and married:

“For me I think any attempt to solve the situation in Iraq is something good, if it was the Surge, or an operation, or anything else, and for me I will do anything to help with fixing Iraq. But what the US forces did during the Surge it was not something to help Iraq, the only things that happened since its beginning are the deaths of more Iraqis, and more of them detained. And for no reason! They have to stay in American prisons, like Abu Ghraib, and some other detention centers in the south of Iraq, and they keep them there, even if they have done nothing, for like six months or more. I think keeping people in there for a long time, even if they did nothing, is not something that helps Iraq. Like for example I have a brother who is detained by the US forces, and he is now in a American prison in the south of Iraq, and he was kept there over the last four months. Yet they keep telling him that there are no charges against him and they will let him go soon! So I don’t what kind of surge is that?”

Something to be mentioned is that one of our correspondents, his name is Husam, has been kept in Bucca camp, in the south of Iraq, for more than four months and also with no charges. I am wondering when the US military will let him go too, so I hope that they will release him soon as they are constantly saying they will. Husam was detained after a raid took place in Adhamya, and he was at one of his friends’ houses, the US forces detained two of his friends along with him, his two friends have been released but he is still there.

I recorded one more interview with an Iraqi citizen, Amar Al-Zubaidi who is 36 years old and married. He lives in Al-Salaam district, which is controlled by the Mahdi army:

“The things I saw after the Surge is two US raids in my neighborhood, the US forces came into one of the apartments and they made everybody put their faces to the wall and told them not to move, but thank god, they didn’t take anybody or arrest anybody, but the Surge changed nothing. For example, there is a guy I know who used to work for ABC News as a cameraman, or a correspondent, his name is Alaa. He was kidnapped by the Mahdi army and found dead on the very next day, and sometimes I used to watch them from the window. Where they used to put their fake checkpoints on the street in front of my apartment and kidnap people. But nobody is doing anything about it, so where is that Surge for cleaning all the militias? Or is it just all TV talk and nothing is really happening on the ground?”

That was what some of the people in Iraq think about the Surge; I wonder how the Americans in the US are thinking about it?

The Iraq Surge - When is All of This Going to End? - 09.06.2007

By: Omar Abdullah

[Editor’s Note: In anticipation of the Surge Report, we are asking each of our correspondents to write something about their impressions of the conditions today in Baghdad, what they are hearing and what they expect will happen. This piece is by Omar Abdullah, who is now based in Damascus.]

Lots of Iraqis ask this questions everyday, to the police, the Iraqi forces, the US forces, many of them wonder when is this bloodbath is going to end. None of the Iraqi families that I meet did not lose someone, at least they have one of their family members either missing or detained somewhere in Iraq. Some people I meet they think that if the US forces pull out of Iraq all of the problems there will end forever. But some of them say that if the US forces pull out of Iraq it will become a total mess and no one will ever control the situation, because of the large number of militias, some are Sunni and some are Shi’a and most of those militias control large areas in Baghdad and some other places in Iraq.

I spoke with one Iraqi citizen, who lived in Sadr city since the year 1980, named Abbas Mahmoud, he said “Most of the people who lived here had a strong faith in the Sadr family because they are from the family of the Prophet Mohammed and they were very kind since a very long time ago, and I think people in Baghdad will keep their faith in this family forever. But there is only one problem now in Baghdad, there are some people trying to destroy the image of this family by wearing uniforms that look the same as the uniform of the Mahdi Army. Unfortunately they are killing some Sunnis from distant areas of Baghdad and I hope one day we can find all of those people and punish them for killing other Iraqis, and for destroying the image of the Sadr Movement at the same time.”

After this I had another meeting with another Iraqi Sunni who lives in the Al-Karkh side of Baghdad, who used to live in Adhamiya from 1976, his name is Mahmoud Omar A-Kaisi, he said, “If we as Iraqis want this country to be return as it was, we should all be united together and never be separated. We should all use the word Iraqi, not Sunni or Shi’a or Kurds, and we should all refuse the ideas of the occupation and we should control our country by ourselves with out any help from outside. I think we controlled this country for many years and many wars happened in this country and we were able to fix it”

And I hope that Iraq will be rebuilt at some point, and I hope that all of the chaos will just be history.

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