Iraq went through a lot of scrutiny over its media and books under Saddam's regime.
Iraqis couldn't easily get access to any book they wanted to read if this book contained material that didn't conform to the Baath party's visions. Television in Iraq was controlled by the ruling party and Iraqis had no more than 3 channels to watch. So was the case with the radio. The internet was almost useless since you couldn't access any website that had connections with Americans or even the Kuwaiti and the Saudi governments at that time.
The government's control over people's lives at that time didn't stop just at that point. Only landlines were allowed in Iraq since it could be accessed by the intelligence agency. Cell phones were forbidden for that reason. Regarding the newspapers and magazines available, they were only Iraqi (i.e. controlled by Saddam's people) and Pro-Baath. Overall, Iraqis suffered from the disconnection with the rest of the world and were anything far from the revolution in the world of communication.
After the war, the Iraqi mentality was freed from the tyranny of the Baath Party. People could gain access to the internet, cell phones; formerly-forbidden books and newspapers are available now at the disposal of people who have not witnessed such form of the freedom of thought before.These changes are signs of a healthy society since picking information for the readers should not be a responsibility of the government. They should only offer what the world has to offer.
Today, as I was reading the news, I came across this statement ," The Ministry of Culture prevents the import of pro-violence books into Iraq." It states that the Minister, Tahir Al-Hamoud, confirmed that the ministry intends to do its best to prevent the import of books that contaminate the Iraqi youth with ideas about suicide bombing, racial discrimination, and any material that opposes what the Iraqi Constitution holds. He also said that the Iraqi Government is not going to apply this policy against the books that support political opinions not represented in the current Iraqi governement, including other cultural values.
Now, what does this policy really mean? Does it mean that Iraqis will not be able to read books they like? Does it mean that Iraqis can't read " The God's Dilusion" by Richard Dawkins? or for that matter, any secular book? since secularism is not adopted by the constitution!? or does it just mean that books published by "terrorists" themselves won't be sold?
The Ministry says that they're going to make sure that the books on the shelves of Iraqi Libraries and book shops have no "negative" effect on the Iraqi Society! And that, in my opinion, is a tough job! How can you do that with much objectivity in prospective?! Are they going to hold a conference each time a book's liability is questioned? Or, I don't see how one person can decide what's good and what's not for a whole country?
However, It is a tough decision to monitor what Iraqis read! It's an indirect control on what Iraqis can get their hands on. Let's just hope that it's not the beginning of a tyranny over Iraqi youth and that no further steps will be taken regarding the control of culture on Iraq...Because the Ministry of Culture is supposed to enlighten people, not block their minds!
By: Fadi Al-Asadi