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About the project

March 2003 – March 2013. Ten years of war seen from Iraq and elsewhere on a webdocumentary that is updated daily to May, 1 – the day that George Bush declared the “Mission Accomplished”.

What do we know about Iraq? What images does it conjure up? A birthplace of writing, gold (the black sort), a primetime war, an ousted dictator and, today, the occasional blurry, blood-stained news.

The verbosity that once gushed from Western media has dried up and the lingering impression surrounding Baghdad today is one of everyday but faraway chaos. But what do we know – really – about Iraqis’ daily lives today, 10 years after the second Gulf War began? What do Shiites, Sunnites, Kurds and Christians have to say about their aspirations, sufferings, doubts and hopes? That was what we wanted to hear and see. This webdocumentary is all about what they have to say, in their video stories, their photos and their interviews.

The goal is to get the facts straight from the source and home in on an undeniably less “West-centred” perspective than usual.

Columnists from three partner European dailies – Le Monde, die Süddeutsche Zeitung and The Guardian – have contributed to this picture. International experts help to unravel its complex history and the geopolitical stakes down the road. Last but not least, we also called press photographers and newspaper illustrators to the witness stand.

At the end of the day, the goal is to understand a decade in Iraq, enlightened by the people who made it happen.

This project ties in with the series that started with Afghanistan in 2011, which you can enjoy (or enjoy again) on our website.

The nine sections

Things seen. We asked a woman director, Katia Jarjoura, to tell us about “her” Iraq in a series of “pillboxes” that captured the moment in and around Baghdad. These 10 snapshots add up to the story of her month-long stint in Iraq in 2013.

Iraq, my country. Iraq through the eyes and lenses of seasoned or starting-out young directors. They each share their own take on their country, and allow us to see common Iraqis and their remarkable testimonies.

Trip diary. A 10-episode, commentary-free road movie by a French-Iraqi journalist Feurat Alani who travelled that country from North to South.

Images of Iraq. The principle is simple: 5 Iraqi photographers and 5 foreign photographers tell us about 10 snapshots from their files, providing 100 living angles adding up to a 360° perspective.

In exile. They left their country to start their lives anew across the world. We met these “Iraqis afar” and brought back 10 portraits of men and women with troubled stories.

Iraq 2.0. Did Wikileaks change the course of Iraq’s history? How is the country that invented writing living with the 2.0 revolution today? That is the question we try to answer.

The newspaper kiosk. Our partner newspapers Le Monde (France), The Guardian (UK) and Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany) provided a series of articles spanning the decade from 2003 to 2013 in Iraq.

Pen strokes. A great drawing is worth more than a bad speech and a good old platitude beats a poor presentation. 10 caricature artists from around the world tell us about 10 years of Iraqi news.

Background. Interviews with experts, articles and letters are just about everything you need to present Iraq and its history? The goal is not to say everything there is to say: it is to provide the keys to understand a complicated picture. That is our message here.

 

Partners

theguardian

Founded in 1821, The Guardian can no longer be described as just a newspaper. Under Guardian news and media, one of the UK’s most successful media companies, its flagship guardian.co.uk has become one of the world’s most visted news websites. In addition to the contents of the print edition, there are specialised sections on the arts, sports, travel, the media, as well as multimedia content (documentaries, podcasts) produced by staffers, offering what must be one of the most complete English-language news services. Owned by the Scott Trust, the Guardian is generally considered to be the centre-left title of reference. Though close to New Labour, it’s tradition of editorial independence means that it is often highly critical of the government.

lemonde

Left-leaning Le Monde, self-proclaimed “newspaper of reference”, is the planet’s main French-language daily, with 35,000 copies distributed abroad. Despite being considered an evening paper since its foundation in 1944, it wraps daily at 10.30 a.m and is on the streets of Paris by midday. In order to widen its readership and soften its longstanding reputation for austerity, the template and contents have been modernized, made more spacious and reader friendly. With over 40 million visits monthly, lemonde.fr is the number one news website in French, featuring articles from the paper edition and hosting a large number of blogs. It also includes regular news updates, slideshows and video content.

sueddeutsche

Founded in Munich in 1945, this “intellectual newspaper of German left-wing liberalism” is the one nation’s daily mainstay. The SZ, renowned for its independence, is also famed for its Streiflicht, a daily front-page column that offers an ironic take on current events, as well the main feature on page 3. Much of this broadsheet is given over to coverage and analysis of national and international news. Some of the articles on the website are enhanced with SZ-produced videos. It also devotes a special site for the younger generation: jetzt.de.

 

Credits

ARTE GEIE – Information department

Director: Marco Nassivera

Editors in chief ARTE Reportage: Philippe Brachet, Uwe Lothar Müller

Online editors: Donatien Huet, David Zurmely

Production: Sandrine Heitz, Cécile Thomas, Caroline Kelsch

Translation: Éclair Group

Mixing: Marc Gigoux, Thierry Weil, Michel Puls

Music: Nahawend, by Fawzy Al Ayedy. Album: Oud Aljazira. Label: Buda Musique/Musiques en balade. Year: 1999.

Website made by FCINQ

“Trip diary”

Direction: Feurat Alani. Montage: Santiago Avalos. ARTE GEIE/Baozi Production – December 2012

“Things seen”

Direction: Katia Jarjoura. Montage: Wissam Charraf. ARTE GEIE/Baozi Production – January 2013

“Irak, my country”

Direction: Abdul Rahim Mackie, Ahmed Taleb al Sultan, Ali al Hadithy, Malik Alawi, Omar Yassine. ARTE GEIE/Baozi Production – January 2013

Direction: Namer Ablhed Huna, Awat Ali, Soran Qurbani, Ismaeel Omar Ali, Haval Salah Ali. Picture, sound, montage: Dhafir Ali Mashy, Ali Muhamed Ramzan, Hemn Zahir, Koshish Bakr, Anwar Ahmed,  Kerîm Muhamedi, Mensûr Elyasî, Jêhat Barîs, Ranj Abdulla, Kurdo Ahmad, Habib Kadri, Evan Aziz, Farman Ali. Alterdoc – 2010-2012

 

Of all the numerous foreign agents plying their trade in Iraq, one was literally impossible to “nab”. Iraqi MP Mohammed Redha al-Khafaji warned Iraqis a few months ago about an “international spy” who was threatening Iraq’s security and had the capacity to tap into phone calls and hack into e-mails with ease.

Outsiders may wonder at the fact that al-Khafaji, a Sadrist MP loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtadā al-Ṣadr, was not referring to a member of the CIA or some other foreign espionage agency. No, the culprit and focus of his ire was a new internet cable designed to connect Iraq with Europe. While ten years after the invasion by the “Coalition of the Willing” Iraq is certainly in short supply of many things – but conspiracy theories that sound at least somewhat plausible to the man on the street are not among them. And so it is that even the expansion of internet services has become a target of suspicion toward any foreign powers.

Even sections of the government are quite happy to use of such fear-mongering rhetoric, but none of this changes the fact that Iraq is currently experiencing its very own internet revolution. While the internet was key in other parts of the Arab world to organising and documenting protests, the point here is to create access for the Iraqi people to the internet in the first place. During Saddam Hussein’s reign, internet access was reserved for only a privileged few. As the worldwide web triumphed around the world in the years following 2003, civil war following in the wake of Saddam’s fall raged throughout Iraq.

As late as 2010, only one percent of the Iraqi population had access to the internet. And most of those people had to use internet cafés because, at the time, Iraq had the highest broadband fees in the world. In the meantime, the number of online users has multiplied seven times, and there are no signs of this trend abating. The Qatar-based conglomerate Gulf Bridge International (GBI) recently laid a submarine communications cable connecting Iraq with the other Gulf States and the European network. Next up is a fibre optics link to Frankfurt via Istanbul

And this may be only the beginning. With neighbouring Iran and Syria as the targets of international isolation for the foreseeable future, Iraq could potentially become the primary interchange for the transfer of data between Europe and the Gulf states. Iraq is on its way to becoming a “telecommunications hub” according to a recent euphoric prediction by the New York Times.

For now, the majority of Iraqis would be satisfied with affordable DSL capabilities, faster connections and better service. And they can only hope that in the wake of the growing number of broadband connections the government avoids the temptation to become the nation’s main internet saboteur. In the past, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has repeatedly advocated online censorship legislation to filter out “immoral content”, as many of Iraq’s neighbours do. 

Only last year the government tabled legislation governing “IT crime” aimed at making the online publication of material contradicting “religious, moral, family or social values” punishable under the law. Official statements assert that the proposed law is intended to prevent extremists from using a variety of online channels to continue stoking hatred between Shiites and Sunnis, but digital civil rights group Accessnow.org describes the legislation as “Carte blanche” for the restriction of free speech on the internet. The criticism seems to have hit its mark, because in January of 2013 an influential parliamentary committee in Iraq spoke out against ratification of the legislation. It seems to have been put on the back burner since then.

If the draft legislation was a reaction to the fear of a potential digitally-driven revolution in Iraq, then such fears are unfounded at this time. Baghdad is not Cairo and Basra is not Aleppo. Hayder Hamzoz, an Iraqi refugee living in Malmö, Sweden and coordinator of the Iraqi Network for Social Media explains: “The Iraqis are following the protests in the other Arab countries very closely, but at the end of the day they are concentrating on the situation and the problems in Iraq.”

Among the problems placing higher demands on the attention of the Iraqis at present are the continuing conflict between Shiites and Sunnis and, above all, the corruption that is rampant in the country and which repeatedly brings activists out onto the streets. During the American occupation, many Iraqis still frequently used blogs to report as civilian journalists on the realities of the civil war. These days, the debate has moved more and more to the somewhat less public forum provided by Facebook.

While almost two million Iraqis have a Facebook account, a central political mass movement has not yet emerged from the trend. Amir Lemina, a journalist at the Kurdish newspaper Al Awat explains: “Protest on Facebook doesn’t really happen in groups. It happens mainly on each person’s own Facebook profile.”

Examinations of the Arab Spring nevertheless show that in countries like Egypt and Tunisia, the internet was able to play such a crucial role as a political tool because activists were able to use the mobile broadband internet to post information, photos and videos online directly.

This won’t be the case in Iraq for some time to come. Although almost 80 percent of the population has a mobile phone, only one user in 50 can benefit from the mobile UMTS network because of the smaller bandwidth and the prohibitive usage fees. An initiative aimed at expanding mobile broadband access has been tangled up for months, with the government and mobile services providers unable to agree on the financials for a deal. The allegation of corruption has been raised again in regard to this issue. A clearly exasperated representative of the mobile telecommunications industry recently declared that “there’s a strategic decision that the government needs to make. Do I want to develop the sector to accelerate the growth Iraq is experiencing, or do I just want to put money in my pocket and delay’s Iraq’s arrival in the 21st century?”

You certainly dosn’t have to believe in conspiracy theories to predict a rocky road for Iraq on the way to its own internet revolution.

Iraq 2.0

Digital revolution without revolutionaries

Posted on 08.03.2013

In a decade characterised by war and instability, Iraq missed the boat to the digital world. Yet the fact that this is now destined to change has some Iraqi politicians worried.

By Jan Hendrik Hinzel and Johannes Kuhn

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Süddeutsche Zeitung

Né à Munich, en 1945, le “journal intellectuel du libéralisme de gauche allemand” est un grand quotidien de référence du pays. Réputé pour son indépendance, la SZ se distingue par sa célèbre “Streiflicht”, chronique d’humeur paraissant chaque jour sur la une, et sa page 3 de grands reportages. Le traitement de l’information nationale et internationale y tient une large place. Certains articles du site web sont enrichis de vidéos signées SZ. Un site spécial est également dédié aux jeunes, jetzt.de.