martes, 4 de mayo de 2010

Haitham Sabbah

email 12 oct 2005

Q. When and why did you start writing a blog?
A. I started blogging late 90's. However, that time blogs where not known as they are today. I used to focus on technology and IT security issues. Early 2002 I became more and more focused on Middle East issue. The reason was my disappointment of what I used to read about what and how the Middle East is presented to the world online. It was (and maybe still) an image drawn with black painting on a black background. I felt that I have a duty to do. At least try to erase one line from that dark painting and replace it with a white one that represent some of the unknown shiny facts about this part of the world. That's when I decided to focus my own blog ( on Mideast. Slowly the blog topics encouraged healthy discussions, which encouraged me to write more on political, cultural, religious and life of Arabs.
Q. Can you define your blog?
A. I'm interested in everything, but my chief interest is in the intersection between politics and individual liberty in the Middle East and Muslims world. My blog tries to dispel the rough and ugly image that we suffer from the rest of the world, specially from the west. The vast majority of my blog posts touches on this in one way or another, and try to create a better understanding that we are not as bad as the western media painted us for decades.
Q. What role does the blog play in your life now? (where do you write, how time a day, is a kind of addiction? it has changed you in some way..???)
A. Well, I run and participate in several Internet website projects that are geared to spread freedom of speech and enable everyone who wants to speak to have the means to speak -- and everyone who wants to hear that speech, the means to listen to it. Writing from home and sometimes while in office, at least I spend 10 hours on daily bases. It has changed the way I live and has become an addiction. My family understand that, and even support me to do more.
Q. How many visitors do you have? What kind of people?
A. Last few months average is half a million hit that comes from over 40000 unique visitors. Sorted by percentage of numbers of visitors, they come from USA, Australia, Europe, China then Arab countries such as Saudi, Jordan, Bahrain, etc...
Mostly open minded, moderate and people searching for alternative views and news.
Q. I know that you are working to organize a Middle East Bloggers Meetup. Could you explain me something about that?
A. The idea started last year. I organized the first blogger Meetup early 2004 in Bahrain. We even had one blogger coming from Qatar to join us. The Meetup was very successful and most of the bloggers who attended shared their experience online. Later the news of our meetup encouraged more bloggers from few Arab countries to start such a meetups and they liked the idea. Now I know that on regular bases, meetups are held on Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and of course Bahrain. Needless to say that these countries have the most active bloggers in the Arab world, and more is coming.
In the coming future, I'm coordinating with few Middle East bloggers to hold an annual regional bloggers conference. This should give us a forum to discuss tools and strategies to develop blogging in the Arab world.
Q. How widely read do you think are the blogs in the region? Which are the main problems? (languages, internet access, restrictions, freedom...?????)
A. All of what you said. Due to some cultural restrictions in the Middle East, majority of the surfers are usually go searching for material that is censored or restricted or banned to distribute in the Middle East. Starting with books, political articles, art, MSM, tools and ending up with adult material, most (if not all) of which are not available through other resources.
On the other hand, due to low level of education in some countries, and high cost of Internet access in others, language and censorship, Internet is still not so publicly used resource. In fact it is very much under utilized in so many parts of the Middle East.
When it comes to blogging, we are witnessing now a huge increase in the numbers of blogs, both in Arabic as well English. Earlier, it was difficult for Arabic blogs to take off due to limitation of tools online. Now that many open source projects, volunteers and tutorials exist to assist and help spreading the use of blogs, both in English and Arabic, the number and quality of blogs are improving.
Q. You are one of a few bloggers that is not afraid to show his identity and photo. Why?
A. Why should I? Identity plays a major role in establishing credibility to what a blogger says. Beside that, I believe and practice my right in freedom of expression.
I'm not an enemy to my society, nor I'm a missionary. Having said that, we have to lead by example. Not only in the Arab world, but in front of the whole world as well. If I criticize any, that's because I like to find a solution to it, or to dispel the myth that surrounds all the taboos around us. Now, that is not a crime, so why should I hide behind a anon ID?
Beside that, moderate Arabs and Muslims are in fact majority of the Middle East public now. Unlike what is said about Arabs and Muslims in the MSM and the tags and labels that were stick to us. Therefore, speaking without hiding faces is in fact a reflection of what we live these days. It is very important for me to be transparent, so that visitors to my blog are encouraged to practice the same. This makes it easy to break ice and establish bridges of communication.
Having said all that, I don't believe one should hide his ID when blogging. The world is becoming even smaller than a global village, and one should not fear that he will be accused for something he said or thinks as far as what he says is objective and does not break rules. One has to remember that a big mass of supports and NGO's will jump in if a blogger is detained or accused unfairly by any local authorities. Unlike the old days, authorities can not hide this. I believe one of the best ways to fairly protest and express his freedom of expression can be online, and with original ID. This way he will establish support, beside get interaction and maybe form or reform his ideas for best, yet not fall in the trap of negative criticism.
On the other hand, if blogging anonymously is extremely important due to personal security reasons, then that's welcome. But one has to keep in mind that blogging anonymously opens the doors for intruders to spread lies and rumors claiming an ID of a local or a country that he might never even visited or knew. Organized propaganda is a serious tool that is cleverly used by extremists of all parts of the world as well to spread poisoned theories among bloggers thus society. So, one has to be careful to what he reads and whom he believes and support.
Q. I need also some help, if it is possible. 1) Can you send me a photo (of you)? 2) Do you have some kind of statistics about bloggers, internet access, etc, in the Middle East?
A. You can a photo here:
as for statistics, I don't have much, sorry, but I can tell you of some aggregators which list many (but not all) of the best Middle east blogs. here are they:
Bahrain: Bahrain:

Omar, Iraq the Model

email, 12 octubre 2005

Why did you start writing a blog?

Well, after long years of being not allowed to hear or read what people outside Iraq say, let alone speaking, it was great to know that I could have a way to communicate directly with the rest of the world through my own web page where no one can tell me how to think or what to write.
Moreover, in blogging I saw a way to bridge the gap of information and culture between different communities that usually learn about each other only through the papers and news networks.
Freedom of speech is one of the greatest aspects of freedom and it is one right I am not willing to give up.

Could you tell me about the way that writing it has changed you?

The biggest change I think is that I became more interested in getting the accurate information about any given topic, writing is a big responsibility that requires the writer to go deeper in his readings and to always verify the information he gets to hear or read.
Writing on a blog puts the writer in direct contact with the readers from whom he can learn a lot about subjects he knew nil about.
In general, I believe that blogging can boost knowledge on both ends; the writer’s and the readers’.

Can you define your blog? How many people are reading it? Do you know what kind of visitors are them?

Iraq the Model is basically a page where we write about our daily life in Iraq, along with commentary and analysis on political issues related to the situation in our country. We also try to bring underreported news to the attention of the readers trying to show them the closest image to what is actually happening in Iraq.
- The number of readers who read my blog varies from one month to another but right now the average is a little over 4,000 hits/day, something I am proud of and didn’t expect to see when I started the blog two years ago. Those readers come from almost everywhere, from Australia to Singapore, Egypt, UK, Germany, France and North and South America as well as from Iraq; they come from different backgrounds, some are military, others are fellow bloggers, journalists but ordinary people make the main bulk.

What role does the blog play in your life now? (you answered me so fast that I thought that you are all the time in the net!) Can you explain me how and where do you do it?

Honestly the blog takes a good deal of my time; not necessarily doing posts but also answering e mails, following news and posts on other blogs as well as taking care of the technical part of the blog.
I usually blog from home, at an earlier time before I had my connection at home I used to blog from internet cafés. When I have the chance, I also blog from my clinic.

You talk about liberation and you have said that you want to show the good progress in Iraq and not only bad news. Which progress and which bad news are more important for you?

The media focuses on the bad news only so people tend to think that bombings and murders are the only things taking place in Iraq but in fact, Iraq is a big country and life keeps going on in spite of the hardships.
Economy and politics in Iraq have bee making very good progress, actually faster than any other country in the region but people only get to hear about stories of violence. I am not trying to paint a pink image of Iraq, all I want to is offer the world a balanced image of what’s going on with it’s positive and negative sides.

What are your hopes for the future of Iraq?

To see Iraq live in peace, to get rid of terror and violence and to establish a democratic, secular governing system where law rules and human rights are respected.