Interview: Riverbend The Iraqi Female Blogger

Interview: Riverbend The Iraqi Female Blogger

Her Interview with Al Jazeera and About Blog Journalism

As reported by Al Jazeera, her blog is nominated as a finalist for the Samuel Johnson Prize for contemporary non-fiction (the announcement will be June 14 in London). Her other achievements: (a) It has been adapted into book form by UK-based publishers Marion Boyars and New York-based Feminist Press [1]; (b) March 2005, the blog was adapted into a play by a New York-based theatre production company; (c) Won third place in the 2005 Lettre Ulysses Prize for Reportage; (d) Won Bloggie (Blooker?) award 2006.[2]

Some excerpt from her interview with Al Jazeera:

The nomination is for the book based on your blog. What inspired the blog? Was it your intention to adapt it into a book?

Another Iraqi blogger, Salam Pax,[3] whom many consider the father of Iraqi blogs, inspired me. I guest blogged a couple of times on his forum and he encouraged me to begin one of my own.

I never thought it would be turned into a book even though I got several offers within a few months of blogging. I didn’t like the idea of turning the blog into a book at first because all the publishers wanted me to discontinue blogging. Feminist Press is the first publisher that didn’t want me to stop blogging.

Iraq inspires me to blog. While I began blogging as a way to vent frustrations and fears about the instability and insecurity, I continue because I feel the media covers the situation in my country in a very general way.

Many articles don’t even begin to touch the daily reality Iraqis face.

What are the realities that you feel are not reported?

Real Iraqis, the people currently suffering under a lack of security and a shortage of the most basic necessities like electricity and water, seem to have faded to the background while the media is busy with the failed attempts of the current government to organise themselves.

I’m also frustrated with the way the media oversimplifies certain situations – like the sectarian violence being promoted by the occupation forces and the current government.

But some of your detractors online have said you are unabashedly biased and anti-American and that you lament the ousting of the previous government. Is that true?

Unabashedly biased towards what? Iraq? One thing that bothers me is that many people equate being anti-occupation with anti-American.

I am not anti-American – I know many wonderful Americans and correspond and communicate with them regularly. I am, however, anti-occupation.

I don’t wish for the “days of Saddam”, if that’s what you’re asking. I am, however, completely against the presence of foreign troops in Iraq.

Where did you learn to speak and write in English?[4]

I was raised abroad as a child and was fortunate enough to have parents who encouraged me to read continuously in English after we returned.

What types of books did you read?

I read any book in English I could get my hands on. I read the classics – books by Dickens, Jane Austen, William Thackery, George Orwell and others. I also read books by American authors like Faulkner. I read books translated to English from other languages – Russian and French literature. Anything I could find in English, I would read.

Why do you maintain anonymity?[5]

Because it keeps me secure. In the beginning, I decided to be anonymous because it gave me the freedom to discuss whatever and whomever I wanted without fear of retribution – this includes political parties, religious figures, common thugs masquerading as political and religious figures, etc.

I couldn’t do this with the use of my name because I would be worried about detention or worse. People have been a lot less critical than I’ve been on my blog and they’ve gotten into a lot of trouble.

Blogging and journalism seem to be merging around the world. Are bloggers the new journalists?

Bloggers are not exactly journalists, which is a mistake many people make. They expect us to be dispassionate and unemotional about topics such as occupation and war, etc. That objective lack of emotion is impossible because a blog in itself stems from passion – the need to sit for hours at one’s computer, slouched over the keyboard, trying to communicate ideas, thoughts, fears and frustrations to the world.