Posts from December 11, 2004

Harvard: The world meets

Harvard: The world meets

: It’s a new day at the Harvard session. I’m sitting here with Omar and Mohammed from Iraq and Hoder from Iran; Jeff Ooi from Maylasia is over there; there are folks from Latvia, Kenya, the Phillippines, China, and India to meet. It’s an exciting moment in this world.

Rebecca MacKinnon talks about the gulfs that exist in the world and how media is doing nothing to close them. Ethan Zuckerman talks about the importance of “bridge-blogging” and wonders whether we are becoming a movement. “We are all this together.” Amen, neighbor.

The bridges I got to cross with the people just in this room has been incredibly exciting for me.

: Omar is now speaking about what drove him to start the blog: “Mainstream media… and by that, I mean Arabic media.” See, the U.S. is not the only place where “mainstream media” has become a bad word.

What he likes about blogs is that it is from people to people, not from institutions. “There are no barriers, no filters.” He says comments are “the core of blogs.” For those of you in the U.S. who are scared of comments, listen to this blogger.

He tells the story of one of my favorite posts of Omar’s, about a cousin who hated Americans; they wrote his story; and the cousin read the comments from around the world, all of them encouraging. “Maybe I don’t hate them, but I don’t like them,” the cousin said. A few weeks later, the cousin’s father got a car and the cousin had to admit that would not have happened two years ago. He put up a picture of the young man in the car and the comments made him cry. And Omar almost starts himself as he says:

“If I visited America a year and a half ago, before I started this blog, I feel a stranger.” but he does not now. “I am surrounded by friends.”

Mohammed now says: “It’s from person to person, from heart to heart. I did not have any trouble understanding people thousands of miles away from me in spite of language and distance…. We share many things. Media try to show only the differences between groups and countries but really human beings have many, many things to share…. Here in blogging, I learn from my readers…. I think through blogging we can spread love more than we can spread hate. I started blogging because I saw through the media that they just want to spread hate… I have a different story and many Iraqi people agree with me.

Asked why they called their blog Iraq The Model, they said, “Iraq will be a model for the Middle East region and the world….”


The brothers on radio

The brothers on radio

: Omar and Mohammed were on Brian Lehrer’s WYNC show yesterday. You can listen here. “Life under Saddam wasn’t living,” says Omar. “It wasn’t life.” They tell him that they are grateful for their liberation and that the stories from the media and the CIA about the state of life in Iraq aren’t accurate. Mohammed says he’s shocked when Americans ask whether they can go out; it’s a big country and much more than Fallujah, they say.

Lehrer notes that they won a conservative “warblogger” award from Right Wing News and asks whether conservatives have their best interests at heart; they say they object to the “warblogger” label. “I am not a warblogger, I am a freedom blogger. That’s what I support: the liberation of Iraq. I support freedom in Iraq and in the region. I am not supporting war. But sometimes if war is the only way to liberate people, to free people from tyrants, then I’ll support it.”

I was a little surprised that Brian cast this in American political terms but he’s not alone. Last night, when I told the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger that I’d introduced the brothers to Lehrer’s show, he said that was a good thing, for liberals need to hear their story. I think Americans should hear their story not for political reasons but for human reasons; we need to Well, I agree, but not because this is right or left but because it is good to make a human connection, American to Iraqi, and the weblogs are now making that possible.

Next, Brian puts it in religious/political terms, mentioning that the brothers are Sunni and asking about Sunni leaders’ calls for a boycott of the election. “Let me explain something,” Omar said. “First, I’m human. Second, I’m Iraqi. Third, I’m Muslim.” Well said.