Reporters on the Job

You Say You Want a Revolution? Staff writer Howard LaFranchi was back in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood Wednesday (see story) where he worked during a reporting stint in Iraq last fall. He was surprised to learn that the US military is trying to engineer a change in the famous slum's name to "Thawra."

"I can understand that they don't like the place carrying the surname of the rebel cleric (Moqtada al-Sadr) they're trying to corral, and no one would want to go back to Saddam City - the name Saddam Hussein tried to make stick. But Thawra?" says Howard.

He found out that's what the area was called back before Saddam, and that Thawra means "revolution."

Howard says the name change seems to have no better prospects than last spring's attempt to redesign the Iraqi flag. Many Iraqis rejected the attempt by the US-appointed governing council to win allegiance to a new flag. The fact that the banner also used the same blue as the Israeli flag didn't help. But in Sadr City, er, Thawra, even Mr. Sadr's fighters were taking the name change lightly. "It's no surprise they'd want to take away the name of our leader," one fighter from Sadr's Mahdi Army told Howard. "But how curious they'd return to Thawra, when that refers to the kind of change we are looking for."

Cultural snapshot

David Clark Scott
World editor

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