Iraq, Cross-border

We Looked at International Coverage of the Middle East…and the Results Will Surprise You

What happens when you combine a British film from the 1950s with a Twitter account about Iraq? In its inaugural week, “AMENA: International Edition” honors Business Insider writer Jeremy Bender for his June 19th article that did just that.

So why did he earn the stamp of #barakability? Three reasons:

1) TITLE: His article “These Amazing Pictures Show What Iraq Was Like Before The Country’s Decades of Chaos” stood out in a sea of coverage about ISIS this week. The permalink was even more positive, featuring the phrase “amazing-pictures-of-peaceful-iraq”.

2) STRUCTURE: We loved Bender’s unusual juxtaposition of sources, using stills from a 1950s British Pathé film alongside photos from the Twitter account @IraqPics. That choice captures the imagination while also strengthening the overall article: a rare combination. There’s also a 10-minute clip of Iraq in the 1950s; both the content and the cinematography make for an enjoyable watch.**

3) INSIGHT: Bender really got our attention when he wrote: “it’s difficult for outsiders to envision [Iraq] as a thriving or even functional place.” His words highlight the necessity for international media coverage like his, and that difficulty is why we here at BarakaBits do what we do.

You might be saddened, as we were, by the comments on Bender’s story, none of which at the time of writing addressed the actual content of his article and tended to be of the incendiary, trolling, or bigoted nature. But we’re confident that next time, we won’t be the only ones celebrating Bender’s decision to swim upstream. 

So, come back next week for another international edition of Around the Middle East and North Africa. Until then, check out our homepage and do some smiling. It’s good for your heart.

And that’s #goodnews.

**Caveat: given it was made in the ‘50s, the commentary on the video can come across as patronizing to the modern ear. But as the British Pathé Archive says, “If you disregard that the film was probably made for propaganda reasons (the notes say the film was made for the Iraq Petroleum Co.) and instead just view it as a travelogue, it paints a fascinating and extremely appealing picture of this ancient land.” 

For more Information: Jeremy Bender; British Pathé Archives@IraqPics.

If you have any tips on positive, MENA-focused news stories by media groups/high-profile bloggers based outside MENA, send them to tj(at) with the subject line “Tip for AMENA: International Edition”.


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TJ Misra

TJ Misra is Head of Corporate Communications at BarakaBits. She has a Masters in International Affairs, with a speciality in Security and Conflict Management. She grew up in Manhattan, New York and San Francisco, California, and comes to BarakaBits after 4 years of living in Geneva, Switzerland. There she co-founded the first company specialized in transnational affairs and technology. TJ has worked building public-private partnerships across many sectors and borders, and has almost 10 years of communications industry experience.

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