“Its chief targets are the US-led forces and ‘collaborators.'” As long as there are American and coalition troops in Iraq, why is al-Zawraa still on the air? “Insurgent TV channel turns into Iraq’s newest cult hit,” by Michael Howard for the Guardian:
An American soldier slumps in the turret of his tank, felled by the infamous Baghdad sniper. A Humvee is vapourised by a roadside bomb. Rockets launch from a pick-up truck to shouts of “Allah u Akhbar [God is great]”.
Back in the studio a TV anchorman, dressed in fatigues, urges viewers to rise up and fight the invaders. “We will not surrender. Either death or victory,” he vows, while warning US forces and their “Iranian” friends in Iraq’s government that they face a shameful defeat.
This is al-Zawraa TV, a 24-hour satellite station that lionises Iraq’s insurgency to the drumbeat of Saddam-era martial music. It is a crude and dizzying mix of images and videos harvested from jihadi websites – and a cult hit. There are grainy loops of
car bombs and mortar attacks interspersed with images of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and bloodied children. “Mujahideen” are seen training. Clips of Michael Moore’s film, Fahrenheit 9/11 are thrown in for good measure.
Its chief targets are the US-led forces and “collaborators”. But it reserves some of its strongest venom for the Safawis, a derogatory term used by Sunni Arabs to describe Iraq’s resurgent Shia political and religious establishment. The name harks back to the Persian Safavid empire which ran amok in Baghdad in the 16th century.
The radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi militia, thought to be behind many of today’s anti-Sunni attacks, are excoriated as “murderous gangsters”, while the Shia-led government is labelled as Iranian stooges. “We are not against the Shia, we are
against the Safawis,” the station proclaims.
Al-Zawraa started life as a mostly song-and-dance channel, but following the closure of its Baghdad offices by the Iraqi government in November for “inciting violence” it made an abrupt change of tone.
Iraqi officials say al-Zawraa is a mouthpiece for the Islamic Army in Iraq, a Baathist-dominated insurgent group. It is transmitted from an unknown location into the Middle East and north Africa by the Egyptian-owned Nilesat network.
The station is owned by Mishan al-Jibouri, a member of Iraq’s national assembly who had his parliamentary immunity stripped earlier this year following allegations of embezzlement. US officials in Iraq say he is in hiding in Syria.
Al-Zawraa has proved a hit with disaffected youth in Baghdad. “I watch this channel every night,” said Samir Aziz, 22. “I don’t like encouraging violence, but it is something unusual in the argument against the Americans. I am hooked.”