15 February 2008

It's the Friday before a long weekend so I don't wanna get all Amnesty International on that ass but I came across this, found it quite intriguing and wanted to share.

Apparently two bloggers, a Saudi named Fouad Al-Farhan, and a Syrian named Tariq Biasi, were arrested and taken to separate undisclosed locations where they've been held for months now incommunicado and sans any publicly announced charges. It's assumed they are still alive and it seems they were yanked off the face of the earth because they were criticising government officials on their blogs. You can read more about it on the Global Voices Advocacy site.

This all obviously reminded me of Salam Pax. (It also reminded me to tell you to read the book if you have not already.)

Salam Pax is/was a pseudonymous 29-year-old architect/blogger from Iraq whose site "Where is Raed?" received considerable media attention during and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. His lively and acerbic blog was far better than the stuff pumped out by the army of foreign correspondents in the country. It became so popular that servers hosting it were overwhelmed. His pseudonym was made from the words for "peace" in Arabic (Salām) and Latin (Pāx).

In the blog, "Salam" discussed the war, his friends, Aphex Twin, The Flaming Lips, creepy foreign internet cafes, disappearances of people under the government of Saddam Hussein, and his work as a translator for journalist Peter Maass.

Pax's site is titled after Pax's friend Raed Jarrar, who was working on his master's degree in Jordan: he didn't respond promptly to email, and so Pax set up the weblog for him to read.

Pax continued to post entries on his blog even after it was temporarily blocked in Iraq. During the war, he gave accounts of bombings and other attacks from his suburb of Baghdad until his internet access and the entire electrical grid was interrupted.

Excerpt from Salam's blog:

"March 23 - 8:30pm (day4) we start counting the hours from the moment one of the news channels report that the B52s have left their airfield. It takes them around 6 hours to get to Iraq. On the first day of the bombing it worked precisely. Yesterday we were a bit surprised that after 6 hours bombs didn’t start falling. The attacks on Baghdad were much less than two days ago. We found out today in the news that the city of Tikrit got the hell bombed out of it. To day the B52s took off at 3pm, on half an hour we will know whether it is Baghdad tonight or another city."

Salam's story - article from The Guardian, dated Friday, May 30, 2003
Salam Pax Is Real - Slate article, by Peter Maass, posted Monday, June 2, 2003
Where is Raed ? - Salam Pax's weblog (until August 18, 2004)
Raed in the Middle - Raed's blog
shut up you fat whiner! - Salam Pax's new blog started in Aug 2004 (last updated July 18, 2006) Where is Raed ? - Salam Pax's fotopage

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