Internet use during Saddam's rule of Iraq

History Apr 17, 2021 1 min read

Already in 1982  the Iraqi government  had set up an early infrastructure for internet use in Iraq which was called the regional documentation center. It provided access to data and information shared by Iraq and the Arab Gulf countries. Its headquarters was Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. This system was destroyed and ended after the 1991 Gulf war. In the 1990s the government revived a new internet system, this time with more accessibility and relevance to the average Iraqi as it was connected to the at the time emerging world wide web.

In the 1990s there were about 65 government run internet centers. Before entering an internet center you were asked to strictly explain what you will be using the internet for. Additionally, you were not allowed to delete your browser history once you were done so that the managers of the center could quickly check what you did online. Additionally it was expected for Iraqi users of the early internet to do their patriotic duty and always report suspicious anti-Iraqi activities they stumbled upon on the internet. The Iraqi government also provided an E-mailing domain (which also the only emailing system you were allowed to use), each email sent through that system would go through the government's server, checked and then sent to its destination. Because internet users were limited in the 1990s this was manageable for the Iraqi government.

By the 2000 some rich Iraqis were able to afford personal computers. For 750 Us dollar a year you could subscribe to the government's internet line.  By 2002 there were in total 45.000 internet users in Iraq. This situation was fundamentally transformed after 2003 when private internet cafe’s sprung up all over the country from the biggest city to the tiniest village. Ironically while internet access and internet penetration is higher and more open than ever, accelerating the global capitalist onslaught that befell Iraq access to public provisions such as education and healthcare was terminated after the American invasion of Iraq.

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