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Iraqis Revel in New Freedom to Watch Satellite TV


Since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, there’s been an explosion in the kinds of modern technology available to average Iraqi citizens.

Iraqis are flocking to see what the rest of the world has to offer.

Only weeks ago, if Shireen Abdul Ghani al Nimei had been caught doing this she would have gone to jail and been fined.

Under Saddam Hussein’s rule, having satellite television was a crime. The Iraqi government wanted to keep its citizens cut off from information.

The world has now rushed into Iraqi everyday life. In an incredibly short time, satellite dishes have appeared everywhere, offering almost 200 channels in many languages as well as Arabic.

The Al Nimei family lives in a pleasant middle class neighborhood in Baghdad. They got their dish a month ago. It cost $250, but Mrs. Al Nimei says it was really worth it.

She explains the old Iraqi programs were all politics, weapons and sports. Among her favorite stations?

“Al Jezeera, Abu Dhabi, Tunis, Libya, …" The family has 5 children and she and her husband have set rules for watching TV.

They have to go to bed by 9 p.m. and can only watch certain programs. Fifteen-year-old Aya says she thinks life is more enjoyable now.

Dish shops are easy to find all over town. Emir Adbul Ameer says he sells between 12 and 20 dishes a week, ranging in price from $150 to $290. They come from Turkey or Syria. And what about financing? "Cash," he says.

You have to pay in dollars, but don’t worry, a money exchange shop is just next-door to change your Iraqi dinar. There’s also a curbside television shop in case your old set doesn’t provide the best picture.

There’s competition too. Another dish shop is just a few steps away. This one also sells generators to keep the TV on during those rolling electrical blackouts Baghdad is experiencing.

The customers just keep coming.