Niqash—an insightful discussion on Iraq



 
Amidst the deafening echoes of explosions and the subsequent lackluster reports on the number of victims in Iraq, comes the online magazine "Niqash-briefings from and across Iraq" to offer refreshing in-depth reports penned by Iraqi journalists with a focus on human interest stories.
 
By SARAH EL-RICHANI
 
Iraq niqach


BERLIN, Aug 12, 2009 (MENASSAT) — The four-year old website, run by the Berlin-based non-profit organization Media in Cooperation and Transition (MICT), offers weekly reports on Iraqi politics, economy, legislation, and society and culture in English, Arabic and Kurdish. "The aim is to offer balanced and in-depth coverage on Iraqi issues written by Iraqis and read by a world audience,” said Niqash editor-in-chief Koumay Al-Mulhem. 

With the financial backing of the German Foreign Office, MICT has trained and recruited a diverse group of journalists, academics, and artists from across Iraq. The articles are edited by the three language editors based in Berlin and the Middle East and are often reprinted in a wide range of local and international news sources, sometimes without crediting the site. 

“The fact that media outlets from opposing views reprint the articles first published on Niqash reassures us that the pieces we are producing are balanced and objective in our coverage”, said Al-Mulhem. 
This view was reiterated by several Iraqi stakeholders from across the spectrum including MP Ali al-Adeeb, senior member of the Islamic Dawa Party who said “touchy issues are covered sensitively without provocation as other sites do.” 

This has undoubtedly helped the weekly updated site gain a growing number of faithful visitors from Iraq and the World. “Niqash is very interesting and comprehensive. Particularly in the interviews with key Iraqi political and economic actors, from across the spectrum, I think that it provides a very valuable platform for their views to be put across in English - certainly western-based academics not conversant in Arabic, and unable or unwilling to visit Iraq, would gain an added dimension of internal Iraqi discourse and debate from reading the site on a regular basis. I have bookmarked it,” said Dr. Kristian Coates-Ulrichsen, post-doctoral research fellow at the Kuwait Program for Development, Governance and Globalization in the Gulf States. 

Still, the number of readers particularly in Iraq remains lower than the Niqash team hopes for. “Due to problems with Internet, electricity and the overall situation in Iraq we are unable to reach a mass audience and therefore have a discernible impact. However, we have been successful in reaching a relatively large audience of academics, politicians, artists and journalists,” said Abbas Khider, Berlin-based Iraqi author and editor of the Arabic section of Niqash. 

It is the well-researched articles and the personal stories, which, according to Al-Mulhem, are of interest to the readers. “The ever-growing list of victims released by the occupying forces and the Ministry of Interior are in effect meaningless when reported as mere numbers. Our readers come to the site to read about the people, the society and the personal stories,” he said.

Indeed, a survey of the website reveals a rich array of human interest stories or “quasi-tales” as put by Khider, in addition to well-informed analysis of the developments in the country. Stories ranging from the regional election results, women training to serve in the army's “daughters of Iraq” organization, which aims to crack down on women suicide bombers, IDPs living in abject circumstances, the persecution of gay Iraqis and a group of active thespians in Iraq and abroad coming together via Skype for art and theater, are just a few examples. 

While the website is yet to feature a forum to literally live up to its name "Niqash" --Arabic for discussion-- the website does feature a platform called Liqa’, which connects Iraqi intellectuals in Iraq and abroad. Also, and as the editors add,  the stories themselves include this element of Niqash in so far that each story includes all the sides and voices, no matter how small.  “We have managed to keep the discussion on identity, the democratic process, transparency and security in Iraq going, after the event-driven world media has gone silent,” added Khider. 

Indeed and in spite of the limited technical obstacles on the field in Iraq and the apparent general apathy towards the country and its news, the website Niqash has emerged as a reliable virtual platform offering not only in-depth pieces on economics and politics but also refreshing stories on a beleaguered society trying to make do. Check out the website at http://www.niqash.org/