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Salam Pax: I became the profane pervert Arab blogger

It began as an internet joke with a friend in Jordan. But then the media - including the Guardian - picked it up, and suddenly he was the Baghdad blogger, the most famous web diarist in the world. Salam Pax describes what it was like to play cat-and-mouse with Saddam's censors 
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The Guardian, Salam Pax:
My name is Salam Pax and I am addicted to blogs. Some people watch daytime soaps, I follow blogs. I follow the hyperlinks on the blogs I read. I travel through the web guided by bloggers. I get wrapped up in the plots narrated by them. I was reading so many blogs I had to assign weekdays for each bunch, plus the ones I was reading daily. It is slightly voyeuristic, especially those really personal blogs: day-to-day, mundane stuff which is actually fascinating; glimpses of lives so different, and so much amazing writing. No politics, just people's lives. How they deal with pain or grief, how they share their happy moments with anybody who cares to read.

And I cared. We had no access to satellite TV, and magazines had to be smuggled into the country. Through blogs I could take a peek at a different world. Satellite TV and the web were on Saddam's list of things that will corrupt you. Having a satellite dish was punishable with jail and a hefty fine because these channels would twist our minds and make us do bad things. They spread immoral values. Of course he and his buddies were incorruptible so they could watch all the satellite TV they wanted.

This was the case with internet as well. While the world was moving on to high-speed internet, we were being told it was overrated. So when in 2000 the first state-operated internet centre was opened, everybody was a bit suspicious, no one knew if browsing news sites would get you in trouble. When, another year later, you were able to get access from home, life changed. We had internet and we were able to browse without the minders at the internet centres watching over our shoulder, asking you what that site you are browsing is.

Of course things were not that easy, there was a firewall. A black page with big orange letters: access denied. They made you sign a paper which said you would not try to get to sites which were of an "unfriendly" nature and that you would report these sites to the administrator. They blocked certain search terms and they did actually have a bunch of people looking at URL requests going through their servers. It sounds absurd but believe me, they did that. I had a friend who worked at the ISP and he would tell me about the latest trouble in the Mukhabarat [secret police] room.

Sometimes when Mr Site Killer would get very upset by people Googling Saddam or his sons, Google would be blocked, and it would take the people at the service provider days to convince him that it is not Google which is the baddie, that it has nothing to do with the content people are searching.

We also had no access to sites offering free web mail or web space. You had to use the mail account provided by the ISP and you can bet your wireless mouse this mail was being monitored. But the beauty of the internet is that it is not static, it changes all the time. There are always new sites offering all sorts of services and the people who run the firewall were not always that clued-up. They were just as new to this as we were and it was a race. We would use a certain web mail service until the site was blocked, then start a new search. You had to be creative with your search terms and have lots of patience. And for those who were a little bit geekier, the internet offered a wealth of tunnelling software to download, little programs which allowed you to make tiny holes in the firewall through which you could access blocked sites. They knew it was happening. It was a cat and mouse game.

It was on one of these searches that I found blogs. With blogs the web started talking to me in a much more personal way. Bits of news started having texture and most amazingly, these blogs talked with each other. That hyperlink to the next blog - I just couldn't stop clicking. And the best thing about it was that Mr Site Killer had absolutely no clue.

To tell you the truth, sharing with the world wasn't really that high on my top five reasons to start a blog. It was more about sharing with Raed, my Jordanian friend who went to Amman after we finished architecture school in Baghdad. He is a lousy email writer; you just don't expect any answers from him. He will answer the next time you see him. So instead of writing emails and then having to dig them up later it would all be there on the blog. So Where is Raed? started. The URL used to be where_is_raed.blogspot.com, just a silly blog for me and Raed. I never worried about the people monitoring the web finding out, it was just silly stuff.

The first reckless thing I did was to put the blog address in a blog indexing site under Iraq. I did this after I spent a couple of days searching for Arabs blogging and finding mostly religious blogs. I thought the Arab world deserved a fair representation in the blogsphere, and decided that I would be the profane pervert Arab blogger just in case someone was looking.

Putting my site at that portal (eatonweb) was the beginning of the changing of my blog's nature. I got linked by the Legendary Monkey and then Instapundit - a blog that can drive a stampede of traffic to your site. I saw my site counter jump from the usual 20 hits a day to 3,000, all coming from Instapundit - we call it experiencing an Insta-lanche (from avalanche) and if I remember correctly it was a post I wrote on October 12 in which I called the American plan to invade Iraq just a colonialist plot. I just flicked the rant switch on, wrote for half an hour and was surprised that the world took notice.

What really worried me was the people writing those emails were doing so as if I was a spokesman for the Iraqi people. There are 25 million Iraqis and I am just one. With the attention came the fear that someone in Iraq might actually read the blog, since by now it had entered warblog territory. But Mr Site Killer still didn't block it. I preferred to believe they were not watching. They were never patient. If they knew about it I would already have been hanging from a ceiling being asked about anti-governmental activities. Real trouble comes when big media takes notice and this happened when there was a mention of the blog and its URL in a Reuters piece. I totally flipped out. I sent emails to Eve Tushnet of the Legendary Monkey, saying that if the blogger site gets blocked I would give her my password so she could erase all my archives. I spent three days checking blogspot.com and blogger.com every couple of hours, because if access got restricted to them I was sure it meant they knew about the site.

Things got worse when the Reuters article got picked up by other news outlets. My brother saw my agitation and I had to tell him. He thought I was a fool to endanger the family, which was true. I was kicking myself in the butt for the next couple of days. Then Blogger did get blocked. This was the end. My brother and I kept checking on Blogger.com every couple of hours. But the "access denied" page still did not come up. I signed in, deleted the archives and stopped blogging for a couple of days.

What was actually very funny is that blogspot does not delete the archives. Even if the blog does not exist, the archives stay on the web. I was doomed.

I waited. Nothing happened. My hands were itching and there was so much news and other blogs to write about, I couldn't help myself. I changed the URL. Using the idea that what I was writing was intended to be letters to Raed, I chose dearraed.blogspot.com, updated the links and started writing again - I told you it was addictive.

This time around keeping things quiet was more difficult. The war was coming and search engines were pointing searches about Iraq to the blog. I still thought the most important thing was staying out of the big media - and I never thought they would be interested anyway.

By the end of January war felt very close and the blog was being read by a huge number of people. There were big doubts that I was writing from Baghdad, the main argument being there was no way such a thing could stay under the radar for so long in a police state. I really have no idea how that happened. I have no idea whether they knew about it or not. I just felt that it was important that among all the weblogs about Iraq and the war there should be at least one Iraqi blog, one single voice: no matter how you view my politics, there was at least someone talking.

I was sometimes really angry at the various articles in the press telling the world about how Iraqis feel and what they were doing when they were living in an isolated world. The journalists could not talk to people in the street without a Mukhabarat man standing beside them. As the war came closer, my blog started getting mentioned more and more. There were people quoting it even after I told them not to, because I feared it would attract too much attention. I talked to as few people as possible and did not answer any interview requests, but my blog was popping up in all sorts of publications. The questions people were asking me became more difficult and the amount of angry mail I was getting became unbelievable. Raed thought I should start panicking. People wanted coherence and a clear stand for or against war. All I had was doubt and uncertainty.

One of the first people to link to the blog said, "It is all about a guy who risked his nuts to tell us he's a pervert and his friend likes to watch". I still don't really understand how it became what it is now. The blog for me will always be a wonderful personal reminder of the times I, my friends and family have been through in the past year.

· Find out more about the book and watch the exclusive promo, with music from Aphex Twin here.

المشاركات الشائعة من هذه المدونة

خدمة إشعارات من #كي_كارد Qi عبر الرسائل النصية SMS

حاير نزل الراتب لو بعد؟

هسه تكَدر تشترك بخدمة الرسائل النصية الي راح ترسلك رسالة في لحظة دفع الراتب على البطاقة او عند سحبك للراتب.
حيث أعلنت شركة كي كارد اليوم عن تقديمها خدمة جديدة لعملائها وأصبح بإمكان المتقاعدين والموظفين من مستخدمي بطاقة كي كارد تلقي إشعار عند اعلان دفع الرواتب عن طريق خدمة الرسائل النصية القصيرة (SMS) على الهاتف المحمول دون حاجة للاتصال بالانترنت، علماً ان هذه الخدمة مجانية، ويمكنك الإشتراك بها عن طريق الإتصال بمركز خدمة زبائن كي كارد من جميع الخطوط على الرقم "422"

ملاحظات من كي كارد:
١- الخدمة فعالة للمتقاعدين والموظفين حصراً.
٢- الخدمة متاحة حالياً لمشتركي خط زين فقط وقريبا ستكون متاحة لجميع الشبكات.
٣- توجد طريقة ثانية لتفعيل الخدمة عن طريق ارسال رقم البطاقة الذكية والاسم الرباعي واللقب واسم الام الثلاثي ورقم هوية الاحوال المدنية واسم الجهة المانحة ورقم الهاتف والمواليد (يوم/شهر/سنة) برسالة خاصة الى صفحة كي كارد الرسمية على فيسبوك.
٤- يمكنك الاتصال على الرقم 442 خلال ساعات الدوام الرسمي.

ما هي اكبر مواقع التسوق الالكتروني في العراق؟ What is the top E-retailers websites in #Iraq

تأخرنا في العراق كثيراً حتى بدأنا استخدام الانترنت لبيع وشراء المنتجات ربما بسبب تأخر النظام المصرفي وعدم توفر بطاقات الدفع الالكتروني بشكل مضمون ومناسب، والسؤال الآن ما هي افضل واشهر المتاجر الالكترونية في العراق؟
وردني هذا السؤال من موظف اجنبي في الشركة الاجنبية التي أعمل بها، واختلط الأمر علي وسألت نفسي ان كانت مواقع مريدي والسوق العراقي المفتوح وحتى موقع جنبر وغيرها تعتبر من مواقع بيع التجزئة؟ قبل ان أٌجيبه بالتالي:

١- Miswag : نبدأ مع موقع متجر مسواگ الذي تأسس عام 2014 ولديه الآن:
فرعين رئيسيين، في بغداد و أربيل أكثر من 700,000 مستخدم عراقي أكثر من 250 ماركة تجارية من أكثر من 200 تاجر محلي وعالمي.

٢- Elryan : موقع الريان الذي يقدم مجموعة واسعة جداً من الاجهزة الالكترونية والمنزلية وأدوات المطبخ.

٣- Ayn Al Fahad : المتجر الالكتروني لشركة عين الفهد وهي أكبر متجر بيع بالتجزئة للهواتف الذكية في العراق ومكاتبها في بغداد ولديها خدمة توصيل للمحافظات الأخرى.

٤- Margobox : ماركوبوكس متجر بيع التجزئة للأجهزة الالكترونية الحاسبات واللابتوبات والموبايلات وغيرها من الاكسسوارات لديهم توصيل لأ…

صفحات الفيسبوك العراقية تفيض بالجنس Facebook sex trade thrives in Iraq

أم ..... ورفيقاتها.. محّركات الـ«سكس» في العراق
عمر الجفّال - جريدة السفير 10/12/2013
صفحات الـ«فايسبوك» العراقية تفيض بالجنس. صفحات لنساء «قوادات» ظهرن فجأة وبتن ينافسن أكثر السياسيين شعبيّة، وأكثر رجال الدين تأثيراً.. على الـ«لايكات».
منذ شهر آب الماضي، حصلت صفحة «أم ....» على أكثر من 71 ألف معجب. لم تقم بأي إعلان مموّل على الموقع. تجمّع الشباب حول الصفحة كالنمل حينما يعثر على قطعة سكّر. وأم .... ، بطبيعة الحال، سكّر مفقود في العراق. الجنس حرام، والعلاقات بين الشبّان والشابات تكاد تكون معدومة. وهذا يعني أن الحرمان يتسع، والسكّر يبور في المنازل، والنمل لا يقضم نفسه ما دامت أم .... وأخواتها تقدّم وجباتهن على صحون المجتمع الالكتروني الفاخرة.