Iraqi Bloggers Describe Life Lived Amid Long Turmoil

Friday, August 12, 2005

BAGHDAD -- Hassan Kharrufa said he had never heard of Salam Pax when he created his Web site "An Average Iraqi" ( ), but he's following in the famous blogger's footsteps.

Pax was the screen name of the Iraqi blogger whose musings from Baghdad, written as letters to a friend in Amman, Jordan, were widely read during the U.S. invasion. He later became a correspondent for a British newspaper, the Guardian, and wrote a book. Kharrufa, 20, an engineering student in the Iraqi capital, is one of a legion of new bloggers who have emerged with the expanding Internet access enjoyed here since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Iraqi bloggers offer a window into the lives of the people most affected by the turmoil of the past few years -- some fierce proponents of the U.S. presence, others determined to show the outside world the misery they feel the invasion has wrought.

"It was obvious that the media was giving a totally different picture of Iraq from what was happening on the ground, so I thought it was my responsibility to address the West and tell what was happening here," Khalid Jarrar, whose blog is called "Tell Me a Secret" ( ), said in a telephone interview.

In a chilling 5,000-word posting on his blog last month, Jarrar, 22, described being detained by the Americans for more than a week and accused of being a terrorist. Recounting his interrogation, Jarrar, who since has moved to Amman, wrote:

"They asked me all the questions you can ask anyone, but they did it very fast. They took the name of my teachers, my friends, even my colleagues and the girls in my class. They asked me if I had ever had sex before, I said no. They didn't believe me, they made fun of me and asked if I prefer men more, and I said no too. Then they wanted me to write my 'confession' finally, which is the paper that will go to the judge to decide my fate."

Kharrufa mostly writes about politics, but an entry in April about a party he attended has proved the most controversial. He and his friends decorated a courtyard at their college with morbid symbols of the past few years: a funeral tent, a poster adorned with weaponry and a human-size replica of New York's World Trade Center.

Several American readers posted comments arguing that the decorations showed poor taste. Kharrufa defended himself.

"At first I was sad, because they misunderstood my meaning. It was supposed to show what we have been through," he said. "But I realized it is a reasonable discussion with people across the world. That is a good thing."

-- Jonathan Finer

© 2005 The Washington Post Company