Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Where is Khalid?

This story is actually about Khalid Jarrar and his recent arrest and release from a Mukhabarat prison. But lets rewind.

Reading Salam Pax may have been what first hooked me into reading blogs. I caught on to Salam's "Where is Raed" blog after the war started. Meeting him and Riverbend during and after the shooting war got me hooked on blogs. Their words were immediate, personal, direct and moving. They erased so much distance. Gave me a way of listening in on life during war in Baghdad. I was already obsessed with reading about the Afghan, then Iraqi news -- blogs gave more depth, a more human dimension to news of wars and politics and policy.

Through Salam we met the actual Raed and others in his famlily, Khalid, and their mother Fazia. The whole Jarrar family. Bloggers all. Pretty cool. I don't read every post of their blogs time, but I keep tabs on them. After Fallujah they started an effort to bring supplies to the city. Then there was a remeberance of Marla Ruzicka.

So when Khalid was arrested recently, it set off ripples through the Iraqi blogger community that I picked up on immediately. I read about it in Riverbend, Helena Cobban, Justin Alexander... Once again blogs were able to add a personal, human dimension to on ongoing story of prisoners in Iraq and the Iraqi form of justice. Its one thing to read about conditions in places like Abu Ghraib. Its another to worry if someone you (sort of) know is there or not. To be able to read this friend's family blogging about it was unique.

Now he is free and has written a long description of his arrest and detention. One thing really jumped out at me. Starrled me.

He was arrested for surfing the web.
Visiting his brother's blog.

Then finally I understood why I was there, after few hours. Security guards at the university had printed out all the websites I was reading while I was online there. They were accusing me of "reading terrorism sites" and "having communications with foreign terrorists".
"Do you know what these pages are?"
I looked at them and figured out they were the comment section of Raed in the Middle!!
I opened the comments section while browsing in the university, read some comments, and didn’t even post anything. But these people don’t seem to know what the internet is, and they don’t speak English, so I was a major suspect of being an assistant of al Zarqawi maybe! Or that I have a terrorist group of my own, with foreign connections!

Chilling to me. It humbles me to think of the liberties we enjoy here and compare it to Khalid's life. Khalid's humility at his good fortune (he got out) has inspired a new initiative to establish three basic rights for Iraqi detainees.

  1. the right to inform their families about their location within 24 hours of detention
  2. the right to appear in front of a judge within 48 hours of detention
  3. the right to a public defender

Let's hope they can achieve this modest goal. It would be a simple, solid step to rebuilding a civil society there.

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