Sunni Insurgents Launch TV Channel Sunni insurgents in Iraq are running a 24-hour television channel, called Al Zawraa. The channel shows attacks on Americans and Shiites, as well as violence committed by Shiite militias. Saad Qasim, a translator in NPR's Baghdad Bureau, talks with Alex Chadwick.

Sunni Insurgents Launch TV Channel

Sunni Insurgents Launch TV Channel

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Sunni insurgents in Iraq are running a 24-hour television channel, called Al Zawraa. The channel shows attacks on Americans and Shiites, as well as violence committed by Shiite militias. Saad Qasim, a translator in NPR's Baghdad Bureau, talks with Alex Chadwick.


From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick. We're going to begin today's show doing what many, many families will do a lot of this weekend: watching TV. It's the dominant medium in many places, including Iraq, and what families can see there helps explain how complicated this place is.

(Soundbite of television program)

Unidentified Man #1: We are fighting for our religion and our soil, and with the will of Allah, we will fight you while you are attacking.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

Unidentified Man #1: We will fight you while you are sleeping, and we will fight you while you are evacuating your last soldier.

CHADWICK: That's a clip from a satellite station that's been running for months now. It's called Al Zawraa. It's mostly in Arabic, and sometimes in English, too.

(Soundbite of television program)

Unidentified Man #1: And then, and only then, for us it would be mission accomplished.

CHADWICK: This satellite channel is run by insurgents, Sunni Muslim insurgents, 24 hours a day. It's their channel, and people in Iraq watch it. We know, because when we heard about the station, we called a man in Baghdad who works for NPR News as an interpreter. His name is Saad Qasim, and he's watching.

SAAD QASIM: They're showing programs about insurgency, about car bombs, about the IEDs, attacks on Americans, and mostly also Sunnis who are getting killed by Shiite militias. And I was watching this morning, and I even saw how they managed to booby-trap a sheep, a dead sheep. Yeah, they filled his - I mean, his inside with IEDs, then they set it on the road, and they attacked a U.S. military convoy.

CHADWICK: But this runs all the time? There are enough attacks, and they're filming enough of them that this is running all the time, 24 hours a day?

QASIM: Yes, it's running because it's repeated. I mean, they show attacks mostly in West Baghdad and Ramadi; atrocities carried out by Shiite militias against Sunni minority, right now in Iraq, and Baghdad specifically. They're trying to instigate the Iraqis about the role of Iran these days in Iraq. They're trying to show unity. They're attacking the Iranians, they're attacking the Americans.

(Soundbite of television program)

(Soundbite of gun fire)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) (Speaking foreign language)

QASIM: It is a Sunni channel. It's headed by Mishaan al-Jabouri, who is a really mysterious guy because he was considered one of Saddam's guys, and he's (unintelligible) some contracts of oil dealing and arms trafficking at the time of Saddam. Then, all of a sudden, he became some anti-American guy, and even the local townsmen of Salah ad Din, where he's located over there. I mean, the decent people, they hate him because he is carrying out atrocities over there.

CHADWICK: So this is Mr. Jabouri, you say, is the person who runs the station. Isn't he in parliament? I read that in the Los Angeles Times.

QASIM: Exactly. He's a member of the parliament.

CHADWICK: Well, the government has been trying to shut down this station. It used to be a functioning television station, with real offices and everything, but now it's kind of gone underground, but it continues to broadcast and it's owned by a member of parliament. I don't quite get that. How does that work?

QASIM: The Iraqis are amazed. They're asking - everyone's asking why doesn't the government shut down this channel? Why don't they arrest Mishaan al-Jabouri? Why don't they kill them because they're instigating the Iraqi feelings.

CHADWICK: Would the government consider arresting Mr. Jabouri even though he is a member of parliament?

QASIM: Well, they would arrest him if there is no parliamentary immunity.

CHADWICK: Oh, he has immunity because he's a member of parliament.

QASIM: Yes, of course. Being as member of parliament - to tell the truth, I have only see him once attend one session right from the start. In the beginning of the swearing-in of the government, he attended one session only, no longer.

CHADWICK: Well tell me, how is this station being received there in Baghdad? Are a lot of people watching it? Do people know about it?

QASIM: Yes, I notice. I notice people, they're talking about it a lot.

CHADWICK: Well the question is, are your friends watching it?

QASIM: Well, yes. We watch it. You can see it every day in the morning for at least one or two hours.

CHADWICK: So if your friends, if people you know, are watching this anti-Shiite and anti-American channel, if it's popular among them, that says something, doesn't it?

QASIM: Well, it says something. The bottom line is it reflects the state of chaos, of loss, that the Iraqi people are living. They no longer know what to believe in and why they believe in what they believe in.

CHADWICK: Saad Qasim is a translator and interpreter in NPR's Baghdad bureau. Saad, thank you for speaking with us on DAY TO DAY.

QASIM: Thank you so much, Alex.

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