By Iraqi journalist Zuhair al-Jezairy, and translated from the Arabic by John West - this is an elegiac and inspirational account of Iraq after Saddam.
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Jaza'ri, Zuhair / Translated: John West
Saqi Books, Beirut, 2009
13.5 x 21 cm
Writings - Iraqi stories
Translated from the Arabic by John West. In 1979, journalist Zuhair al-Jezairy fled Iraq and certain death after openly defying Saddam's regime. Twenty-five years later he is back, and cautiously celebrating. He joins "al Mada", and is Editor-in-Chief when the newspaper breaks the Oil-for-Food scandal. He leaves to start his own documentary film company and travels throughout Iraq, from the Marshlands of the South, to Tikrit, Najaf, and the Northern region of Kurdistan. He sees the country emerge from thirty-five years of totalitarianism and documents the violence and bloodshed, as well as the many brave and extraordinary people he meets. Giving first-hand accounts of the looting of Baghdad and his encounters with ordinary Iraqis all over the country, this is an elegiac and inspirational account of Iraq after Saddam..
Saddam Hussein's dictatorship drove many of the best and brightest out of Iraq into what must have seemed and bleak and endless exile. There have been accounts from those Iraqi politicians who returned to the country immediately after the end of the invasion in 2003 but they have dwelled on their own ambitions and visions. Apart from that there have been very few authentic Iraqi voices who have been able to speak of the brutal world during the Saddam years and the bloody chaotic ones that have followed his demise. The Devil You Don't Know fills that void and counters the avalanche of books by westerners about Iraq seen from the point of view of western journalists, diplomats and soldiers. Many others have written of the looting of Baghdad when the city fell to US forces, the beginning of the occupation, but what makes it seem so vital and new is that you read and relive these events through the voice of an Iraqi to whose city and country this is being done. It still seems amazing that after hundreds of millions of words, pictures and inteviews about Iraq over the last 6 years, it still seems a distant war and a conflict which we in the west struggle to understand. The reason is because with each and every year, westerners reporting Iraq have become more and more isolated from Iraqis because of the dangers, because of the suspicions. What really comes through and is startlingly refreshing are Al Jezairy's encounters with ordinary Iraqis in the years during the American occupation. Through them come all the extraordinary Iraqi stories and lives that have been so hard for westerners to capture for all these years. --Rageh Omaar