One of the first blogs I ever read regularly was Bagdhad Burning, an occasional diary of life in Bagdhad that started in 2003, the year George Bush invaded Iraq. It was written by ‘Riverbend’, a young computer science graduate who chronicled the effect of the war and occupation on her middle class family.
Riverbend wrote very well in idiomatic English. Her blog was a fascinating glimpse into family and cultural life under American bombardment, invasion and then occupation. It also described how the deteriorating security situation and increasing religious intolerance affected her personally. She lost her job, had to start wearing a hijab again and found it increasingly hard to go out at all without a male escort from her family.
Over the last six months of the blog, Riverbend’s entries became increasingly spasmodic and angry (mainly against the Americans) and then in September 2007, a final blog entry announced that she and her family had escaped to Syria. The blog, and that entry still exists.
Since then, her blogs have been published as a book in America, broadcast as readings in BBC4 and turned into several plays.
I’m one of many of her fans who revisit her blogsite from time to time, hoping she’s started writing again.
I wonder what she makes of Barack Obama?
Another favourite Iraqi blogger, who started shortly before George Bush’s ‘shock and awe’ kicked off the war, was Salam Pax, whose blog was called Where is Raed? That blog ended in 2004. It’s still viewable. It was replaced in the same month by a new blog called Shut Up You Fat Whiner. The last entry at the latter site was dated July 2006. Pax last appeared as a contributor to http://mindtheglo.be/, formed in London in May 2008 and lasting only one month.
At one point Salam Pax’s blogs were being published in The Guardian.
Both Riverbend and Salam Pax gave fascinating views of the occupation that we couldn’t get from the foreign correspondents who covered the war. They must have been published at considerable personal risk, and whenever there were long delays in publishing new entries, I used to get very concerned and fear the worst. At one point I wrote to the editor of the Dominion Post in Wellington, suggesting that they reproduce some of these blogs, but I never got a reply.