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Time stands still in timeless Baghdad

Jane Arraf

By Jane Arraf
CNN Middle East Correspondent

December 29, 1999
Web posted at: 10:35 a.m. EST (1535 GMT)

This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.

musings at the millennium

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- As many countries celebrate the turn of the millennium, time in Iraq seems frozen in place while much of the rest of the world races forward.

Nowhere is that gap more apparent than in the area of information, the currency of the modern world. For most Iraqis, that commodity is unavailable, stopped at their borders.

Iraq -- a land of larger-than-life accomplishments and ambitions -- often looks to its past for glory.

More than three millennia before the start of the Christian-based calendar, the civilization that sprang up between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers developed writing and spread its scientific advances in mathematics, astronomy and other subjects to the wider world.

Now one of the main forums for the exchange of ideas is at Baghdad's Friday market, where a desperate and dwindling middle class tries to sell its books second-hand.

Not for Iraqis the Internet revolution. Government control and a telephone system heavily damaged by the Persian Gulf War have made the Internet off-limits to all but a privileged and officially trusted few.

more musings

The borders also keep most Iraqis in. Even for those allowed by the government to leave, years of crushing trade sanctions and the refusal of many countries to grant visas make travel an impossible dream.

Nearly 10 years of isolation and frustration in Iraq has virtually extinguished the belief among many of its people that time brings progress. Little wonder that it's more comforting for many at present to look back.



RELATED STORIES:
CNN Interactive: Analysis

CNN Interactive: World

RELATED SITES:
Permanent Mission of Iraq to the United Nations
United Nations
   • U.N. Office of the Iraq Program
   • U.N. Special Commission
Iraq Net Information Network
U.S. Library of Congress: Country Studies -- Iraq

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