.IQ goes online

Iraqi officials this week announced the launch of their ccTLD, .IQ. It’s quite an intriguing tale according to this report in Kurdish Media. The report says, “‘Iraq has officially planted its flag on the Internet,’ the deputy assistant of the Iraqi National Communication and Media Commission said by telephone interview from Baghdad, before a news conference to announce the step. The deputy, who asked that her name be withheld because of frequent attacks on government workers, said e-mail addresses and websites ending in .iq would be up and running in a matter of days.”The article says it has been a struggle to bring online the .IQ ccTLD, “fraught with bizarre twists of fate and bitter infighting that left .iq dormant for several years.””The domain name was once registered to a Palestinian convicted in Texas of having helped to fund a terrorist organization. After the US invasion in 2003, American administrator L. Paul Bremer III unsuccessfully tried to claim it for the country’s transitional government. Then two Iraqi government agencies fought a turf war for more than a year over which would administer it.””‘Getting the .iq domain name has great symbolic meaning,’ Fareed Yasseen, head of policy planning in Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said via e-mail. ‘That would be fitting representation for Iraq’s presence on the Internet: After all, the former regime banned access to the Internet for so long.'””Under Saddam Hussein’s rule, United Nations sanctions prevented Iraq from importing most computer equipment, and the Iraqi regime severely restricted access to cyberspace. In 1996, Iraq’s state-run Al-Jumhuriyah Bulletin newspaper denounced the Internet as a tool of American imperialism.”The article goes on to say:
In 1997, .iq was taken over by InfoCom, an Internet Service Provider run by five Palestinian brothers, and based in Texas, who hosted many websites for organizations in the Middle East.InfoCom never activated the domain. But the appearance of an Iraq connection raised eyebrows at the FBI, which had been watching the company for years because of questioned money transfers to the Middle East.In 2001, the FBI cited .iq in its request for a search warrant for InfoCom’s headquarters, alleging a possible violation of prohibitions on doing business with Iraq, according to The Dallas Morning News.No charges were filed over Iraqi sanctions. But the raid netted enough information to arrest Bayan Elashi, the technical manager for Iraq’s domain name, with his brothers, on conspiracy charges involving the export of computers to Syria and Libya, in violation of sanctions against those countries, and on charges of money laundering for Hamas, a Palestinian group on the State Department’s terrorism list.InfoCom was also linked to the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which US officials say also illegally sent millions more to Hamas.Although Elashi was in jail, he remained on record as the trustee of .iq.After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US administrator, Bremer, sent a letter to ICANN, asking for .iq to be given to the new Iraqi government.Press reports at the time reported that Bremer had said it would ”signal to investors that Iraq is rebuilding for a high-tech future.”But ICANN made it clear it would not accept a request by an occupying authority, according to a former American adviser to the Iraqi government, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.As soon as Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority handed over sovereignty in June 2004, two branches of Iraq’s transitional government began vying for control over .iq, according to internal e-mails and letters reviewed by the Globe.In September 2004, the Ministry of Science and Technology wrote to ICANN, announcing that it had been chosen as the entity responsible for controlling .iq. But months later, in December, ICANN received another letter from Iraq’s interim prime minister Iyad Allawi asking for the domain to be given to the National Communications and Media Commission.The former US adviser described the letters as a ”turf war” between the agencies and said ethnicity appeared to play a role in the dispute. He said that Allawi initially backed the Ministry of Science and Technology — headed by a fellow Shi’ite. But the deputy prime minister, Barham Salih, a Kurd, persuaded Allawi to favor the National Communications and Media Commission, which was run by a Kurd.For the full story in Kurdish Media, see kurdmedia.com/article.aspx?id=10682

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