Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Baghdad without newspapers.

I am addicted to reading newspapers, part of it is because of the little work I need to deal with at clinic. There are four or five of us dentists in the clinic on the average day and we rarely treat more than three patients per day which means I can spend a whole week without having patients to take care of and this leaves us with plenty of extra time to waste while we're there.

So we started reading newspapers and my colleagues count on me for bringing the papers that have become an essential part of our morning, actually I started to even feel uncomfortable on weekends and days off because I don't get to practice this news-delivery role; I usually wake up late on such days and do not get my adored dose of papers that give me entertainment, information and I have even become a part of my work; as a blogger of course, not as a dentist.

Sunday and Monday were my days off this week, so this morning I stopped by the little sidewalk bookstore like I do on every workday, greeted the keeper who recognizes me as a devout reader of his papers now and asked for the usual package that usually consists of 4-5 papers; al-Sabah and al-Mada are a must, then a choice of two or three of al-Mashriq, New Sabah, al-Bayina al-Jadida, Baghdad, al-Mu'tamar, al-Dustoor…..

Me: what have you got for me today bro?
Papers guy: What are you looking for? No papers anymore my friend
Me: What? Why?
Papers guy: Don't you know? Oh, you didn't show up in a few days…well, we stopped selling newspapers.
Me: got that, but why?
Papers guy: they have threatened the 'borsa'.

Trying to connect 'borsa' to the papers but couldn't find a connection. From my background as an ex-shopkeeper the only 'borsa' I know is the exchange and imported cigarettes market in al-Kifah Street in the back of Shourja.

Me: what has the borsa got to do with the newspapers?
Papers guy: how come? That's where all the papers come from.

Here I realized that he was referring to that tortuous alley west of the Bab al-Mu'addam bus station where print houses drop their parcels of newspapers to be distributed to retailers in Baghdad and the rest of the country.

Me: who threatened them?
Papers guy: the death notes were signed by the mujahideen; they said that they will kill anyone who continues to print, distribute or sell newspapers.

He then showed me one of those notes; the ban includes virtually every paper but basically "papers that promote Safawi [Persian] Shiasm, blasphemous secular ideas and democracy…".

I had a hard time trying to swallow what I read, why newspapers? What's going to be next? Will they try to stitch up our mouths and chop our tongues off?!

Those pen-hating cowards are afraid of the words written in our newspapers and they tried to paint their new anti-free speech campaign with a sectarian dye to make it look as if they were only after Shia and secular papers but in fact they are against everything that does not approve and praise their sick mentality.
Yes, I may not agree with what many of those newspapers do, and a few of them even sound offensive or disgusting to me for one reason or another but I cannot accept seeing them silenced in such a way and I am for their right to speak freely exactly the same way I want this right for myself.

Strange though that no one uttered a word about it as far as I know, even the papers themselves mentioned nothing about this threat on their websites and neither did any of the other local media outlets…maybe there has been a threat against that as well? I don't know right now but I'll try to find out.
This is one more time that makes me feel happy we have the internet and the means to use it.

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