Thursday, 4 August 2011



My first memories of television are of the 6:15 pm cartoons, a family of morphing creatures that could take up any shape they desired, a superhero who could become invisible, and some prehistoric creatures. All of these flickered from the small screen, in shades of black and white and grey.

The television was made in Russia and like many things made in Russia its designer had no intention of making it look good, all that was necessary was that it should last, and last it did for very many years. Eventually the time it took to warm up before we could see anything became ridiculous, and by the time it was moved into someone’s bedroom the channel dial had become so wonky it would only stay in one position if propped up by an overturned oversized torchlight (probably also made in Russia).

As colour TV arrived so did an interest in films, Disney favourites for special dates, musicals and songs.
Somewhere along the line a second channel started to air, so called channel 7 was distinguishable from the original channel 9 by its somewhat more art and culture focus, foreign films, and a selection of soaps and dramas were on offer, with more than one choice and ample opportunities for family disagreement the era of channel switching had arrived.

At eight O’clock both channels would join for first of two news bulletins, the music from Um Kalthoom’s “Baghdad”, and the image of a whirring planet Earth signalling the start of a serious list of events that would be read out, the head of some small state or other was visiting, the reporters struggling with the names of Chinese and African leaders, the musicians struggling more with foreign anthems and we would watch the people descended the steps of the plane wondering “where on earth is Trinidad and Tobago anyway?”.

Gradually the content of the news bulletin became more lengthy, there would be a visit to some village to cover “with the compulsive fridge inspections”, at other times a special occasion to be commemorated, an elaborate party with lots of carefully selected children, little girls wearing balconies for skirts twirling around, and little boys with earnest faces and semi-raised palms reciting long poems, on other occasions there were the speeches, and with the national anthem played repeatedly and multiple advance warnings of imminent coverage of said event being aired every few minutes our hearts would sink knowing that was the end of the evening’s entertainment, and that the eight O’clock news would merge uninterrupted into the ten O’clock news, and the coverage would probably continue until the snow started falling on the screen.

During the eight years of the first war, there would be periodic “pictures from the battle” and daily communiqu├ęs, the following day it would be our duty to transcribe these onto the classroom board.

Over the years that I was away, a new channel was introduced, with more entertainment, and for some time I received an annual top up of “video clips” of new songs.

In the meantime I had acquired a taste for English soaps, and documentaries.
Programmes about Iraq were infrequently produced, I remember two in particular, one I watched in the late 1990s a poignant film produced by Channel four which followed the daily difficulties of a Liverpool football club supporting Iraqi minder to the British journalist called Kiffa7, the other was many years earlier, in October 1993 I saw the first feature length documentary on the risk of extinction of the Marsh Arabs, a programme titled "Saddam’s Killing fields", produced with help from Ahmed Chalabi, Yuosif al Khoei and Mohamed Bahr al Ulum.

For the most part and particularly when there was some new military flurry we felt trapped in a vacuum, far from the news, frustrated by the meagre coverage offered by the terrestrial TV, until that is we discovered satellite TV.

A combination of a visit to Amman where virtually every building sported an enormous dish that needed to be manually turned when a different set of channels was to be viewed, and my discovery of MBC whilst on duty in a clinic catering for rich Arabs, convinced us this was what we had been waiting for.

We acquired our very first dish, with receiver and card from a reputable source, and hired “one of our own” to fix it to the wall.
The excitement was short lived, the channels limited, the reception variable, and the dish became completely detached after the first proper gale force winds.
We learnt our lesson and resorted to smaller equipment, more stable fixtures, by more reliable workmen and for a little while at least we were blissfully distracted by Rotana.

And when things went horribly wrong we could now see it vividly transmitted from somewhere close, and the other side of the story was now being laid before us.

As the war machine moved ever closer, a flurry of channels were added to our list, for the first time we discovered Fox TV and realised that not everyone did propaganda in the highly effective subtle British way, we also started receiving the Iraqi national satellite channel for a while. In fact for longer than anticipated, until eventually and abruptly the transmission stopped, leaving behind the very distorted face of the presenter frozen on our screen for days.

Many moths later a new channel started to advertise, the faces were familiar, there was even comedy and music, and after a wobbly few months Al-Sharqyia with its red and white logos became compulsory after work entertainment.

Shortly after that a number of "Green" channels were added, and in June 2005 after a particular explosion one of these channels aired a commemorative programme with the "soon to be supreme" ruler of Iraq watching, a group of children sang a little song threatening the residents of Al-Latifiya and we entered a whole new era in televised enlightenment.

And now?

Well for the past week or so we have been stuck between two extremes on our channel hopping, at one end is a choice of one of the four "Green" channels, which have been spasmodically oscillating between misery and exhilaration on the anniversaries of the death and birth of the greatest woman to ever exist, culminating tonight in a lengthy lecture on the subject of women in celebration of “Iraqi women’s day” given by none other that the Iraqi heir apparent, addressing an audience of black tents, he explained how women were transformed from -and I quote- “animals in the form of tempting women to allow procreation” into “humans” by virtue of religion and the sacrifices of one blessed woman.

Whilst at the same time on one of the "Red" channels we have had several days of heated debate with much retraction and retreats to bring forth “published evidence” over the exact mode of death of the same woman.

We have come a long way haven’t we?


Abbas Hawazin said...
this is a great post, but could you be a little less subtle, what exactly did you mean by the Green and Red channels?

Keep on writing.

27 June 2008 12:05
Anonymous said...
Truth Escapes Satans Grip

I had a dream.
I saw satan swimming slowly, languorously, smiling,
wafting down a river of blood.
More and more as he spread his blood drenched arms
across each bank, people murdered themselves
and murdered their neighbors.
Their blood poured out filling the river deeper and deeper,
and satan patiently, willfully, joyfully
screeched a hideous cry of encouragement.
The unwitting souls on the riverbank, stood
with their eyes firmly fixed on the heavens
spoke the name of God,
then committed self-murder,
and satans fingers, dripping blood, dragged their souls
into his hell bound torrent.
Occasionally a bright beam of truth
would shine upon one of the souls on the riverbank
and they would simply walk away.
And satan thrashed and screamed each time
as another soul escaped his grip.

Through Grace Peace

27 June 2008 16:30
3eeraqimedic said...
Abbas thanks for appreciating!
Too subtle??
"Green" I am sure is self evident, but just in case I meant the obscene Al-Forat.
And I am not sure why I chose red to describe the deceptive Al-"Mustaqilla", maybe because I hope that anyone with sense watching the debate would start to question more than just the difference in "opinion".

27 June 2008 16:48
3eeraqimedic said...
You should make sure you keep warm when you sleep!

27 June 2008 16:56
Laura said...
Dear 3eeraqimedic:

you have your feet firmly on the earth and i like you very much.

Best to you always,


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