The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'salam pax'
Salam Pax, the Baghdad Blogger, recently went to Washington, writing the whole experience up with his unmistakable wit:
When my turn comes to step up to the podium for the archangels to question my reasons for entering this land of dreams, this heaven on earth, I get asked a question that will trouble me for a long time after the interview is over: "Sir, are you religious?" Now, I am the type of Muslim who would tell you that even if there was an Allah hovering up there, he should be punished by collective disobedience because he has been doing a miserable job. So the answer to Mr Immigration Officer would be a hearty: "Oh, no. I dropped that potato a long time ago." But instead I keep looking at the little cross hanging from his neck and feel like telling him that this is none of his business. But I don't. We all know why he is asking me this question and what my answer should be: "No, sir, I am not religious and I do not know how to prove that to you." I feel ashamed that I have just said these words.
And that is another thing that seemed to be incomprehensible to one of my new Washington friends: when we were talking about the popularity of the clerical militia chief Moqtada al-Sadr I was asked how anyone could be fooled by someone who so obviously used religion to boost his own popularity and went for the lowest common denominator for popular appeal? I was saved by another guest who asked if we were talking about Bush or Sadr here.
Another decent piece on Salam Pax, this time from the Daily Telegraph.
In this country, we talk of "going into politics;" in Salams country, politics goes into you. It swaggers up the street in a tank, or kicks in your door. "When I was born, Saddam was already there," he says. "There is no pre-Saddam."
Self-government, he says, at present, "would mean Sharia law. We need people to learn to be politicians, and we need someone to guide us through this. Unfortunately, it has to be Britain or the US. The UN would make it worse it would just add bureaucracy."
In the recent Slate (the same one with this Salam-Pax-was-my-translator article), there is a review/summary/explanation of the new Radiohead album:
I hear their dialectic progression out of order--Kid A and Amnesiac are the thesis, The Bends and OK Computer are the antithesis, and Hail to the Thief is the synthesis, though it's much closer to the last two than any of the "rock" albums.
The effect isn't quite a lullaby; I've got that wrong. He's keeping himself awake with these worries, these phrases he repeats over and over--"The raindrops, the raindrops," or "they will suck you down to the other side"--and then he needs to talk himself back to sleep, or off the ledge. They've been like this for a few years, even before Yorke became a parent and had another mind to soothe. Amnesiac did the soothing bit, too, but Hail really makes it explicit.
To compare the two volumes, as I think of them: Kid A felt like you were spending a cold winters day in an unfriendly village, with the only relief with the sun coming out just as you're setting off for home. Amnesiac, though equally as dystopian, encapsulates the feeling that you've moved into that village for whatever bizarre reason, become a regular at the pub, and starting to make sense of the local rumour mill, where you're the target all too often.
A Grauniad reporter tracks down Salam Pax, the mysterious Baghdad blogger. It turns out that by day he is 29 years old, an architect by profession, and spent much of his formative years in Vienna.
Soon, however, he began to search out other "bloggers" posting on the internet. Few were writing in English from the Arab world, and those that did wrote in heavily religious overtones. That was enough to encourage Salam to put his head above the parapet and one day he identified himself on a bloggers' website as an Iraqi. "I was saying, 'Come on, look, the Arabs here: sex, alcohol, belly dancers, TV shows, where are they?' All you saw was people talking about God and Allah. There was nothing about what was happening here."
Screens cover the windows to keep the midday sun away from his three computers, each of which has been opened up into a sprawling tangle of wires and circuit boards. A poster from the film The Matrix hangs on the wall, looking down on a jumble of computer books and CDs strewn over the floor. Pages of website addresses and computer commands are tacked to the wall above his screen. It was here that Salam would sit and talk endlessly about the impending war with Raed, who returned to Baghdad before the war, and the friend he describes only as G - Ghaith, another young, intelligent, eloquent architectural graduate who spent much of his adult life dodging military service.
Salam's back. (Well, not entirely; he still has no Internet access per se, so he's getting confederates abroad to post his entries for him.) Anyway, his dispatches from the war and the subsequent anarchy of occupied Baghdad make for interesting reading. Good to know he has made it.
A whole market has emerged right there in front of the two hotels, Meridian and Sheraton. Thuraya [thuraya.com] phone owners standing in front of their cars offering you phone calls abroad for $5 a minute (it actually costs less than a dollar).
Hang on; Meridian and Sheraton? Have Baghdad's hotels been acquired by US multinationals that rapidly, or were they called that during Saddam's regime?
Yesterday I almost died of thirst in front of 30 bottles of pure water. I had 30,000 Dinars in my pockets but couldnt buy a 2,000 Dinar bottle. (2000 in itself is a crime you used to get 4 bottles for that price, but what to do, the war and all). 30k Dinars in 10,000 bills which now have the stigma of being stolen on them.
Who gave them permission to camp at the grounds of the ***** Social Club and the Iraqi ***** Club. What am I supposed to do with my membership? Where do I find another big indoor swimming pool? No, seriously. What is this thing with these foreign political parties who have suddenly invaded Baghdad? Do they have no respect for public property? Or since it is the season of the loot they think they can just camp out wherever they like and, ahem, liberate public buildings. PUK at the National Engineering Consultants building. PDK at the Mukhabarat building in Mansour. INC taking an army conscription center. Islamic Dawa at the childrens public library. Another Islamic-something taking a bank. Outoutout. Liberate your own backyard; you have no right to sit in these buildings.
Hopefully he'll resume blogging regularly once AOL or Earthlink or someone rebuilds the Iraqi Internet.
Meet one of the people we're soon going to be bombing into dust in the name of God, Liberty and the right to cheap gasoline: Where is Raed?, a blog run by a young Iraqi. A combination of the usual blog trivia and joking, dispatches from Baghdad, astute and somewhat cynical observations, and an underlying anxiety about the small everyday details likely to be annihilated in the upcoming carpet-bombing. The author of the blog comes across as urbane, cultured and very much like us. In fact, you could imagine much of it having been written in East Berlin in 1988 (though, obviously, not as a blog). Interestingly enough, there is an open disrespect for the official lines of the Ba'athist dictatorship; perhaps a sign that Saddam's police state isn't what it used to be? Mind you, the Americans' intentions don't get off lightly. And then there are his most astute observations of anti-war activists:
Those foreigners are all over the place, I think I know what it should be called: War Tourism. betcha they will be out of here faster than you can say 'Iraqi-peace-team' when things get a bit too hot. It must have been a slow day for news people because the Mutanabi Street was full of them, or Iraqis selling second hand books have become important news items. At least three news teams were filming in that crowded street with their Iraqi minders shooing people away from the cameras. Later on I walked thru Al-Rasheed and Al-Sadoon and they were all over. Not news teams this time but the War Tourists, some of them even carrying backpacks which have [Iraq peace team] written on them in gold marker. And I guess we will be getting more tourists soon. Come on, have a couple of days on us. They will be accommodating you in Al-Rasheed Hotel for free and you get the official sight seeing tour, a couple of lunches with people you can tell your kids you met, when they are shown on CNN and you get to be on TV singing "give peace a chance" in front of the UN building in Abu Nawas (don't miss the excellent grilled fish - masgoof - while you are there, the restaurants have a good view of one of the oldest presidential palaces). I know they all mean well, but I really don't think coming here and getting photographed with Iraqi officials is helping their "cause". Do thy really want to stand up and risk their lives for this regime. If you are so in love with the situation here, be my guest let's trade places because if it is a "cause" for you, for me it's my life and the way I have to go thru it.
(Best of luck, Salam. Do try and stay out of danger, and keep blogging.) (via 1.0)