Al-Zaura was the brainchild of the pro-Western, progressive Ottoman wali (governor) of Iraq, Midhat Pasha (reigned 1869–72). He established the newspaper when he brought with him from Paris a printing press, the first in Iraq, upon his assignment to Baghdad in 1869. Al-Zaura’s name was taken from a nickname for Baghdad, literally meaning a bend or curve, as the city sits within a wide bend of the Tigris River. The paper is arguably the most important source on Iraq’s history during the last 50 years of the Ottoman Empire, from Al-Zaura’s inception in 1869 until Baghdad fell to the British in 1917. The paper’s reformist slant, especially during Midhat Pasha’s short reign, reflected his vision for modernizing Iraq, both as a country and as a society. It was a comprehensive paper, published twice weekly on Saturdays and Tuesdays, which employed some of Iraqi’s leading writers and intellectuals of the time. With content in Ottoman Turkish and Arabic, it covered a wide range of domestic issues, including official decrees and appointments, health, education, crime and the courts, transportation and communication, urban development, taxation, and literature. In all, the paper appeared 2,607 times, from its first issue on Tuesday, June 15, 1869, to its last, on Tuesday, March 13, 1917. The issues have the Hijra dates on the right and the Rumi (Ottoman) calendar dates on the left. Occasional date discrepancies occur.
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