Early this year I announced a competition to find a young Australian writer/journalist/blogger who wanted a head-start in his/her career. Olive Branch Network was the winner, an innovative project from Perth that wanted to reveal the rich diversity of Iraq to the world, from Iraqis themselves to US soldiers stationed there. Read more background here.
Within a very short period of time, the network has grown and now features a wide range of voices.
The nightly news broadcasts and the morning newspapers carry the continuing grim story of Iraq. But on the internet, a coalition of bloggers who live and work in Iraq have formed a loose-knit association that reads like personal letters to a friend.
They call it the Olive Branch Network and it’s nothing fancy; No flashy photos or gripping graphics, just words. A lot of words from young and old Iraqis and even some Americans who share their lives in a dark and dangerous place with the world wide web.
There’s humor and satire, but mostly incredibly poignant stories of everyday people trying to cope with thugs and thieves, warning religious factions, clogged streets, military checkpoints, all amidst the sounds of gunfire and distant and sometimes not so distant explosions.
The bloggers chronicle the agony of their losses…of having to send loved ones out of the country for safety…of struggling to get by with no electricity…and no real indications that things will get better anytime soon. The collection blog posts are deeply personal.