Posts about zeyad

ONA: The definition of civil war in Iraq

Zeyad was interviewed on the stage at the Online News Association by USA Today’s Mark Memmott and the room was pin-drop-silent from start to end. I thought it was riveting and so did many others.

Zeyad told the story of the beginning of his blog and then about milestones in its life and the transformation of his thinking about the war — from the start of the war, when Zeyad was optimistic for Iraq; to the lack of media coverage of prodemocracy demonstrations in Baghdad in 2003; to the death of his cousin at the hands of American soldiers; to his current view of the war. When Zeyad pushed for and got an investigation into his cousin’s death (which found the Americans at fault), he said he saw a backlash among his readers. “They accused me of all kinds of things, particularly because I [had been] optimistic. I realized some people were supporting me just because I was saying things they wanted to hear.”

Memmott asked about the accusation that news media here are not covering enough good news in Iraq. “That what I thought in the beginning,” Zeyad said. “Over the last year, I think they are not covering how bad it is.” What are they missing? “Most of the coverage revolves around attacks on American forces and, of course, I understand that. But they are missing the sectarian violence going on around the country. And it’s also extremely difficult for Western media to get that story.” He praised a story in the Washington Post a week ago profiling a neighborhood and also praised some Times coverage. “But it’s not enough.” He said the TV coverage he has seen has been dreadful.

Zeyad explained that today, he gets most of his news from local message boards, “a great treasure trove. Sometimes, you have to sift through a lot of rubbish and propaganda…. But at the same time, you get some gems from these sites.” He explained that when he sees the same reports on opposing boards, he knows he has hit news. He suggested that media should be doing this themselves; he hasn’t seen evidence that they are.

He painted a terrifying picture of life in Baghdad, of “neighborhood shelling neighborhood.” In his Sunni area, “almost every night there is an exchange of mortar shells between neighbors and I haven’t seen that in any Western media. It goes on every night…. Sometimes, it’s just ordinary people from both neighborhoods. Trust is gone.” (Later, with Paul Brennan of the BBC, we sat in the hall and watched an Alive in Baghdad report about local patrols and Zeyad recognizes his own neighborhood.)

Asked whether this is civil war, he said: “I ask you back: How do you define a civil war? Does what I describe sound like a civil war — neighborhoods fighting each other? Yes, I think that’s a civil war.”

From the audience, he was asked whether he has feared for his life. “Yes, I was fearful for my life all the time and I had to weigh everything that I posted.”

Asked to quantify “how much of the story” Americans are getting — 80 percent or 20 percent, say — Zeyad said we are getting half the story. What’s missing? “The local story. I’m sure you get news about attacks — suicide car bombs — all the time, almost every day. And, of course, news about the government, which is really irrelevant. The government doesn’t control anything and doesn’t even control the Green Zone.” Coverage, he said, “should focus on the people and what’s going on on the street.”

Memmott ended asking whether Western media can do anything to help Iraqi bloggers. Zeyad replied: “They can help by publicizing the blogs… I don’t think they are getting the attention they should get. Right now they are a source of information complementing western coverage and they are a great source. They cover almost anything.” He points to the blog of an 18-year-old girl in Mosul, who writes about going through checkpoints to get to school. This isn’t just numbers, Zeyad says. “You get a great insight from these. It also puts a human face on the war. ”

: Here’s E&P’s report.

Welcome to America

Good news: Zeyad has arrived in New York to study at CUNY. It has been a saga for Zeyad but he’s here and we finally got to meet, a great moment. More later, I’m sure. But I know many of you have wanted updates and so there it is.

Guardian column: Zeyad

My latest Guardian column is about Zeyad and his birth as a journalist — and war correspondent — as a tale about what the tools of citizens’ media can help create.

So witness the power of the humble tools of citizens’ media. A citizen dentist used them to become a journalist. He used them to give the world a unique and human perspective on a story where too much is unreported. He gained an appreciative and supportive audience around the world. He helped give birth to a new medium. And journalism is all the better for it.

(Nonregistration version here.)

From Baghdad

The AP has a pretty good story on Zeyad and the Iraqi bloggers.

Help Zeyad come to America

We all need to help Zeyad, the pioneering Iraqi blogger and journalist, come to America, where he will attend CUNY’s new Graduate School of Journalism. To get his student visa, he must show support for the year and a half that he will be here and that means raising at least $45,000. We are reaching out to foundations and individuals and working on scholarships and Zeyad is working to raise money. But that won’t do it all. We will. All of you inspired Zeyad to blog and give his invaluable perspective on Iraq. That inspired him to give up his career as a dentist and report for his blog as well as for NYTimes.com, the Washington Post, and the Guardian. So now I hope we will all show what the blogosphere can do and raise the funds one of our own needs to come to America to study. You have two means to give.

On Zeyad’s site, click on the CONTRIBUTE button and give a donation directly to him via PayPal or credit card.

Or you can give a tax-deductible contribution to CUNY earmarked for Zeyad’s scholarship. Send your check made out to “Cuny Graduate School of Journalism” to:
Dean Steve Shepard
CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
535 E. 80th St.
New York, NY 10021
Make sure to note that this is for the “Zeyad Scholarship.”

And please spread the word on all your blogs. Zeyad is one of us and we help our own.

Over the years, many of you kind souls have offered to contribute to a tip jar on my site. Do this instead, please.

Thank you.

Zeyad

Zeyad writes about coming to New York and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

I have been reluctant to change careers, but quite frankly there is nothing that I can add to dentistry in Iraq, whereas the field of Iraqi online and print journalism is lacking in many aspects, and I hope to contribute to filling that gap. Also, living and studying in New York city is a more like a dream to me that is closer to coming true.

Of course this is not final yet. I need to provide evidence that I have the required funds to pay for tuition and living expenses in order to be granted F-1 immigration status to enter the US. And I am not a wealthy man, as many of you know.

Unfortunately, I have no means yet to solicit donations, so I would appreciate connections to possible foundations or organisations willing to fund this endeavor.

We are trying to figure out a way to accept donations that some of you have already offered. Please hold that thought!

Zeyad, blogger and journalist

Some big news in the blogging world, revealed today in the Wall Street Journal (free link):

Zeyad, the amazing blogger behind Healing Iraq, a founding father of the Iraqi blogosphere, has been accepted to the City University of New York’s new Graduate School of Journalism (where I’ll be teaching). But we all have to pitch in to help him get there, for one has to have tens of thousands of dollars in the bank before getting a visa to come to the U.S.

Zeyad will have a tip jar up where you can help him directly. But frankly, even with the best work of the entire blogosphere, I doubt we’ll be able to raise all the money he’ll need. So I appreciate any connections to likely funders: foundations, companies, or individuals who want to help build journalism in Iraq and the Mideast.

Zeyad is a born journalist. As soon as he started blogging, I told him he should give up his chosen field, dentistry, and take up reporting. He laughed at the time but now he has been reporting not just for his blog but also for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian (all of whom, I hope, will pitch in assignments to help bring him here!). And he is coming to the j-school in New York.

As the Journal story by Yochi Dreazen reports today, Zeyad has chronicled not only the events in Iraq from outside the Green Zone and from an Iraqi’s perspective, he has also chronicled his own view of the war with an honesty and lack of ideology not present from other sources. Zeyad began his blog elated at the prospects of freedom and today, surrounded by constant violence, his view of those prospects is quite different.

I’m very excited to have watched Zeyad’s birth and growth as an outstanding journalist. I look forward to working with him at CUNY. I’ll be writing about this more but I wanted to let you know about the news immediately.