My Iraqi friends
: While I was in Washington yesterday, I got to meet Omar and Mohamed, the blogging brothers behind IraqTheModel.com, and I can’t tell you what a wonderful moment it was. It was magical, even miraculous. For this could never have happened in a world without the internet and citizens’ media.
How in the world, before this, could I ever have become friends with two men on the other side of the world in a war zone where our soldiers are fighting? How could I have learned about their lives in the midst of that battlefield? How could we have made mutual friends — Zeyad, Kerry Dupont, Jim Hake? How could such a group have ended up working together, though thousands of miles apart, on a project to bring this new medium to the rest of the world? (Omar translated the Arabic blogging tool, by the way.)
I stand in awe of all that. But I also stand in awe of these two men. They have tremendous courage doing what they are doing: They grab onto free speech like men dying of thirst who finally come upon the oasis. They use their free speech with a gusto we should all admire and aspire to. They use it improve their nation and their future.
And it does take courage to do what they do. There are terrorists lurking around the corner of every word today. But these brothers keep doing what they are doing. And they come here to share their story with us. They are meeting with reporters and with others.
Among the things they said last night:
“We are trying to bridge the gap between Iraq and the world,” Omar said. “Iraqis are grateful for what Amreica did. Iraqis are grateful for the liberation of Iraq… They feel like they are not alone in their struggle.”
Mohamed said that his countrymen “had lived in the dark for 35 years.” With their blog, he said, they get to “show the world a different story that they cannot see in the media.”
He added: “I am free and I am enjoying my freedom.”
As I said, they grasp freedom with a enthusiasm that can only be admired.
But you shouldn’t think that they are saying all this from high up on a pulpit. They are two very unassuming guys who seem to take everything in stride; I guess that’s the only way to stay sane in a dictatorship and in wars. They’re enjoying America but they don’t seem overwhelmed by it. They don’t act as if they are changing the world, even though they are.
But for them and for me, what was so special last night was simply that we were friends meeting at last. Over an incredible distance and difference in culture and background and language, weblogs let us get to know and like and respect each other. And that is a wonderful thing. But what’s most wonderful is that these are not just my Iraqi friends. They are your Iraqi friends, too.
I’ll be seeing them again in Cambridge this weekend and I’m eager for them to meet their fellow pioneer in citizens’ media, Hossein Derakhshan, and others. We won’t all agree about politics or other views. But we all share a bond — and, no, I don’t mean the bond of blogs. I mean the bond of friendship.