"I’m absolutely delighted.  You can see the excitement on my face.  I'm over 60, and this is the first time I have been to an Iraqi polling station." Democracy Comes to Iraq

Iraqis worldwide turned out to vote this past week in the first free elections in more than a half century.  Inside Iraq, citizens overcame their fears and the threats of violence to make their voices heard; and outside Iraq, expatriates sometimes traveled long distances to cast their ballots and support the new democracy at home.  By all accounts — even those of the news media, which had forecast gloom and doom for months — Iraqis turned out in overwhelming numbers to help lead their country into a new dawn of freedom and democracy.  Here are just a few of their comments as they exercised their right to vote:

Amir Mahmoud Jawad, Voting in Baghdad:

“We wanted to be the first to vote here.  This is our country.  We have to do it.  There should be no excuse for anyone not to come.  These elections will decide the destiny of the country.”

Abdul-Hamid Sayab, Voting in Basra:

“We came early because we couldn’t wait.  This is a historical event that we could vote freely for the first time in decades.”

Hachim Shahir, Voting in Baghdad:

“Under Saddam we were a people who were lost.  Before, we were not able to talk to officials; they were just punching you, and kicking you.  But now, with elections, we’ll have good officials.  We will know them, and they will know us.”

Hassoun Qanbar, Whose Two Brothers Were Executed By Saddam’s Regime, Voting in the United Arab Emirates:

“It’s the dream I never dared to dream.  It’s the day I regain my dignity, my pride, my individuality after 25 years of alienation and oppression.”

Samir Sabih, Voting in Baghdad:

“The most important thing is that fear has no place in our hearts anymore.  We became free.  This is the first time in my life I go to a polling center freely.”

Najia Abbas, Voting in Baghdad:

“Enough fear.  Let us breathe the air of freedom.”

Arkan Mahmoud Jawad, Voting in Baghdad:

“This is the salvation for the Iraqis and it is a big challenge.  I hate the terrorists and I was waiting for the day to fight them.  Now, I am fighting them by my vote and this is the least thing I can do.”

Shakhwan Hama Aula, Voting in Kirkuk:

“I don’t care much for the threats, and I feel that the building of democracy requires sacrifice.”

Mijm Towirish, an Iraqi Election Official, on Voter Turnout:

“We broke a barrier of fear.”

Ahmed Dujaily, Voting in Baghdad:

“Yes, I am Shiite, but I am an Iraqi before I am anything.  …  Religion, it is myself.  The vote is for my country.”

Adil Ridha, Said He Thought of His Family Still in Iraq, When He Voted in Paris:

“They are the ones suffering.  They told me: ‘Either we vote, or we get a Taliban regime.’”

Fadila Saleh, Voting in Baghdad:

“A hundred names on the ballot are better than one, because it means that we are free.”

Salah Al-Shaikhly, Iraq’s Ambassador to Great Britain, Voting in London:

“I’m absolutely delighted.  You can see the excitement on my face.  I'm over 60, and this is the first time I have been to an Iraqi polling station.”

Ali Abas Khalid, In Tears, Voting in Mosul:

“We win.”

February 3, 2005
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