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Political Debate in the New Iraq. Dr. Ibrahim Al-Marashi Sabanci University February 2, 2006 almarashi@sabanciuniv.edu. Examining Media in Iraq . “bubble of identity”- coterminous with the boundaries of the state State seeks to regulate images within the bubble

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Political debate in the new iraq l.jpg
Political Debate in the New Iraq

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Marashi

Sabanci University

February 2, 2006

  • almarashi@sabanciuniv.edu

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Examining Media in Iraq

  • “bubble of identity”- coterminous with the boundaries of the state

  • State seeks to regulate images within the bubble

  • New Iraq – “bubbles within a bubble”

  • Restrict what images come into the bubble from the outside

    • (Iran, the US, insurgency)

    • Media intervention vs. media assistance

      • US did both in Iraq

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Identity of the state

  • What is the identity of the Iraqi state

  • Does it exist at this point

  • Critics argue it is Shia-Kurdish alliance of convenience

  • The leaders want to hide this fact

  • What role does the state media play in forming this identity?

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Media in Iraq as of Today

  • Media Spheres in Iraq

  • Iraqi political factions use Al-Iraqiyya to send their message

  • At the same time they have their own partisan sat channel and newspaper

  • Those who don’t have access to al-Iraqiyya use al-Sharqiyya or al-Jazira

  • Eventually formed their own channel

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1) Shia Political Parties/UIA

  • dominated by two Islamist parties

  • the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), led by ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Hakim

  • the Da’wa Party led by Ibrahim al-Ja’fari.

  • Ja’fari served as Iraq’s interim Prime Minister after the January 2005 vote.

  • The two parties have sought a role for Islam in the state, and aim to ensure Iraq’s Islamic identity and character.

  • The young cleric Muqtada Sadr joined the Alliance prior to the December 2005 elections.

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2) Kurdish Political Parties/KCL

  • KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) led by Masud Barazani and the PUK (Patriotic Unions of Kurdistan) led by Jalal Talabani are the two most dominant factions within the Kurdish Coalition List (KCL).

  • Talabani became Iraq’s President, while the KDP’s Zebari served as Iraq’s Foreign Minister.

  • Expands the de-facto autonomy they have enjoyed since 1991, and aim to formally enshrine this autonomy within a new Iraqi state

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3) Sunni Political Parties/ Tawafuq Front

  • A number of parties, competing to serve as the united voice of the Sunnis.

  • Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP, led by Muhsin ‘Abd al-Hamid)

  • the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS, led by Muthanna and Harith al-Dari)

  • the National Dialogue Council (NDC, led by Salih al-Mutlaq)

  • General Dialogue Conference (GDC, by ‘Adnan al-Dulaymi). prevent the disintegration of Iraq

  • fear a federal entity in the north and south could lead to the dismembering of the nation, leaving the Sunnis in a landlocked rump state, with no access to the oil facilities.

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4) Non-Aligned Factions

  • Non sectarian, non ethnic

  • Secular groups, such as the Iraqi National Accord led by Iyad ‘Allawi

  • the Iraqi Communist Party,

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Why Study Satellite Channels?

  • Opposed to terrestrial channels can reach a wider audience

  • Iraqis

  • Iraqi diaspora (UK, US, Jordan, Iran)

  • Arab world

  • “Kurdish world”

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Al-Iraqiyya– “Iraqiness,” “of Iraq”

  • Al-Iraqiyya television, formerly known as Iraqi Media Network [IMN] television began transmission on 13 May 2003

  • Official discourse of the state

  • tries to display the bright side of Iraq rather than the destruction, blood shed, or killings

  • highlights issues of "national unity"

  • Both Arabic and Kurdish programs

  • Friday sermons feature both Shiite and Sunni preacher disregard sectarian differences.

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Al-Iraqiyya – Security Operations

  • crackdowns, arrests, and "heroics" of Iraqi security forces in their showdown with the "terrorists" in Iraq.

  • Neglects the losses of the Iraqi security services, “martyrs”

  • average Iraqis commend the traits and operations of Iraqi security forces against terrorists and suppresses footage of Iraqi civilian and military casualties.

  • extensive reporting on "Operation Lightning" on 1 through 7 June, the station's correspondents are observed to air interviews with Iraqi citizens, updates on toll of captured "terrorists"  

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  • Terrorism in the Hand of Justice: A daily program, 1705, "confession" to their "crimes and acts of terror."

  • To prove the insurgency is not some kind of "noble struggle for freedom", rather the work of criminals working for personal gain.

  • questioning the voracity of the confessions it airs.

  • similar program "The Real Terrorism", which airs on the Kurdistan Democratic Party-run channel Kurdistan TV.

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Al-Iraqiyya - Religion

  • Shari'ah: Questions and Answers: A live phone-in program at 1215 on Fridays. Imam Abdallah Abu-al-Harith, discuss "tolerance of Islam" in Iraq.

  • The station carries the "Shiite" call to prayer

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Al-Iraqiyya - PSAs

  • Special ads to denounce killing of doctors

  • Promos to encourage voting and joining the police forces

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Al-Furat – “The Euphrates”

  • 4 Nov 2004 started broadcasting

  • SCIRI channel

  • Supplements the paper al-Adalah

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Furat – SCIRI influences

  • songs celebrate the trial of the "tyrant ruler and his regime"

  • footage of mass graves

  • national songs celebrate the constitution

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Furat – Security Issues

  • Channel Defends Government Actions

  • “achievements of the Iraqi Government”

  • implementation of development projects and the improvement of the state of security.

  • video reports highlights operations conducted by Iraqi/multinational forces.

  • restore security and "wipe out" Al-Qa'ida in Iraq

  • Iraqi Interior Ministry's underground prison was not a lead news item

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Furat - Terrorism

  • song condemns the "silence" of some Arab states regarding the crimes committed by "terrorists" in Iraq.

  • Amman bombings in Nov 2005, Al-Furat: "Why is terrorism in Iraq not duly condemned?"

  • "Terrorism is promoted by most preachers in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, and what happened in Amman is one of the results of such irresponsible support for terrorism."

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Furat – SCIRI Agenda

  • highlights the statements of SCIRI head Abdul Aziz al-Hakim

  • songs promote unity among the various Iraqi sects

  • Glorify the late M. Baqir al-Hakim and al-Sistani.

  • ads promote UIC in the December elections, not other coalitions

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Furat - Shows

  • "With the National Assembly“

  • "Al-Furat and the People," phone-in program

  • "Fiqh Imam Al-Mustafa“

  • Friday Sermons – Shi’a Imams

  • Islamic cartoon show, "The Most Virtuous People on Earth."

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  • began in August 2005

  • Arab Sunni Islamist

  • “The truth. . .In detail.”

  • Supplements the papers Al-Itisam and Basair

  • Affiliated with the Iraqi al -Tawafuq Front

    • carries live Al-Tawafuq press conferences

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Baghdad - Islamist Leanings

  • music videos are religious in nature some secular nationalist songs, but no entertainment songs like Al-Sharqiyya

  • begins ands end with Quranic recitations

  • news anchorwomen wear the hijab

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Baghdad – linked to Sunni Arab Muslims

  • phone-in programs callers are virtually all Sunni Arabs who voice their opinions on political, religious, or social issues

  • Sunni call for prayer

  • Friday sermons from Sunni mosques

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Baghdad– links to AMS

  • Praised by the AMS’ Basa’ir news: "the launching of the Baghdad Satellite Channel is an important step in the right direction, particularly in view of the influential role that media can play, and which we have missed over the past two years, in uncovering the facts that have been obliterated and wiped out by the US-politicized forces“

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Baghdad –Security Issues

  • refers to "the occupation forces"  (quwwat al-ihtilal)

  • highlights US troop losses and the attacks that caused them

  • refers to insurgents as "armed men“ (musalihin) but avoids the term "terrorists“ (irhabiin)

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Baghdad – Socio-Political Programs

  • "Your Place is Empty" -- on Iraqi prisoners, features interviews with families about who arrested them, how they were treated.

  • "Baghdad Daily" -- A Daily program at 1815 BST, asking the common man on the street about issues of political concern.

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Baghdad - Religious Programs

  • "Explaining the Holy Koran“

  • "In the Shadows of the Shari'ah“

  • "Fatwas on Air"

  • "Friday Pulpit"

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Kurdish Media

  • Kurdistan Satellite Channel operated by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)

  • Supplements Taakhi

  • KurdSat, operated by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

  • Supplements Ittihad and Kurdistan Nuwe

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Kurdistan Satellite TV

  • began in 1999

  • Karawan Aqrawi-Station manager : “acquainting the world with a true picture of the civil society we are trying to implant in Kurdistan, which can become the model for an independent Iraq, and to assert our desire to coexist with other Iraqi tribal groupings and ethnicities."

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Kurdistan Satellite TV - headlines

  • KDP, leader Barzani meets Iran's Supreme Security Council Secretary Hasan Rohani; stability in Iraq, bilateral ties discussed

  • The head of the KDP-led Kurdistan regional government Nechirvan Barzani meets Yezidi delegation residing in Germany

  • KDP Political Bureau Secretary Fadhil Mirani briefs party officials in Branch-2 in Arbil

  • US forces reportedly bombards few sites in Al-Fallujah where Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi supporters said hiding

  • People in Zakho held a peaceful demonstration to condemn recent beheading of three men from the town and killing of 12 Kurdish police officers in Khanaqin

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  • Launched in 2000

  • Arabic broadcasts 5 to 6 hours

  • Awat Najm El Din, director, "we enjoy complete independence regarding the message we adopt in our live open-mike talk shows. Our listeners say everything and often cross the boundaries to express views opposing the policies of the Patriotic Union. This affirms the breadth of freedom granted to our political programs."

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KurdSat – headlines news items

  • PUK-led forces held a military parade in Saray Subhanagha area in the presence of leader Jalal Talabani and other party officials.

  • The head of PUK-led Kurdistan regional government Umar Fattah meets group of Egyptian journalists; Fattah said Kurds appreciate being part of federal and democratic Iraq.

  • One killed and several others injured as a rocket hit Karradah District in Baghdad.

  • South Korean forces delegation visits Kurdistan parliament, bilateral relations discussed.

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addressing the Arab street

introducing the Kurdish cause to the world

reach the Kurdish diaspora


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Turkomeneli Television

  • “The duration of the Kurdish programs prevails over the Turkomani programs.”

  • “The employees in the organization are not independent and do not work to the procedure and objectives sought by the coalition forces in the city, but follow the approach of the Kurdish parties.”

  • broadcasts terrestrially in Arabic and Turkoman from Kirkuk

  • Recently started broadcasting via satellite

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Shariqiyya – Of The East

  • Al-Sharqiyya: new TV station of Sa'd al-Bazzaz

  • Began in March 2004

  • addresses "the plight of Iraq's majority," “women's issues” and "differences of opinion." 

  • "Al-Sharqiyya - the truth television," and "Al-Sharqiyya - We are not afraid of telling the truth though we might be blamed."

  • No religious programs

  • All shows are in Iraqi dialect

  • Depends of advertising revenues 

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Election Coverage Dec 15 2005, 300 - 500 PM

  • Iraqiyya

  • 300 BST a 15-min newscast reviewing the course of the electoral process since the early morning hours and broadcasting excerpts of Iraqi high-ranking officials including Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, SCIRI leader Al-Hakim, Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and others.

  • At 415 BST, Al-Ta'i interviews Interior Minister Baqir al-Zubaydi who says the security measures taken in these elections are better than those taken in the referendum because the performance of the security forces has significantly improved as well as their large-scale deployment all over Iraq.

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Election Coverage Dec 15 2005

  • Furat

  • 355 BST screen caption: "His eminence Al-Hakim visits the IECI offices to follow up on the complications that have prevented Iraqis from casting their votes in many polling stations.“

  • 420 BST interview National Security Advisor, Dr Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i, who describes grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani as a "godsend" to the Iraqi people in a very critical time in their history. Al-Rubay'i praises Al-Sistani and his efforts, which, according to him, prevent a break out of a "civil war" in Iraq.

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Election Coverage Dec 15 2005

  • Baghdad

  • At 300 BST, elections summary then songs that glorify Arab unity and the Islamic spirit of Arabs.

  • At 315 BST, clip on the "US occupation of Iraq." The announcer-read report over video provides a briefing on the main political events that Iraq has seen since April 2003. The report criticizes the US practices in Iraq while it hails "resistance.“

  • At 322 BST, songs urge the Iraqis to participate in the elections. The songs are aired over clips of Iraqis heading for ballot centers.

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Election Coverage Dec 15 2005

  • KurdSat TV Iraqi President Talabani's media address after casting his vote in Sulaymaniyah. He called for a parliament representing all Iraqis and urged the Iraq people to vote. Recently-turned 18 year olds youths could not vote for some technical failures in the city of Sulaymaniyah. The station appealed to the relevant authorities to resolve the problem during the day.

  • Kurdistan Satellite TV President of Iraqi Kurdistan Region Mas'ud Barzani's media address after casting his vote in Irbil. Nechirvan Barzani's address after casting his vote. The two leaders were optimistic about the turnout and described the day as historic.

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Concluding Remarks

  • The media in Iraq serve as a reflection of the development of the state

  • Is there an Iraqi state?

  • States within a weak state

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Credits and further information

  • Open Source Center

  • “Iraq”

  • www.fbis.gov