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Iraqis Talk About their Elections

"We are optimistic," says Mohammed Said, the Damascus representative of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a top Shiite political party. "Even the majority of Sunnis are with the elections. Those who object to the political process are being intimidated by the former regime elements and Al-Qaeda."
Christian Science Monitor, January 19, 2005

"They want to destroy the elections, but we will go on even if we all die," said Ali Raheem, a security guard who survived the bombing.

The latest attack on SCIRI, as the council is known here, occurred just before 9 a.m., as many employees arrived for work. The explosion blew the oranges off nearby trees and sent them rolling on the ground, where human remains and shrapnel were scattered for blocks.

Taghreed Tama, 22, jumped out of her car to check on colleagues at the office, where she works as a coordinator for women's services. She said there were fighters on both sides in the elections: those willing to die to make them happen and those willing to kill to stop them. "We have strength and there is no fear in our hearts," she said. "What we do is also jihad."
Knight-Ridder, January 19. 2005

A former officer in Saddam's army, Al-Maamouri fled Iraq three years later for a camp on the border of Saudi Arabia. He eventually came to Canada as a refugee. It will be his first time voting for an Iraqi government. When he reflected on that, his smile was huge. "Today I feel the best, ever. I don't believe it's true. (After) 35 years of a dictator (who) destroyed and killed millions, we never believed one day we would be here."
The Toronto Star, January 18, 2005

"Yes, it's a difficult situation, but this is the only way to make a new society," said 62-year-old literature professor Abid Jassim al-Sa'adi. "We have to challenge the violence. The people are scared, but they have hope in this process."
Chicago Tribune, January 18, 2005

One of those who made the trek yesterday was Al-Haddad, who drove five hours from Raleigh with his two sons and other family members. He served 13 years in prison, he said, because he was falsely accused of being Iranian. "I feel I am responsible for this, to build a free Iraq country," he said, speaking in Arabic as one of his sons translated.
The Washington Post, January 18, 2005

Several Iraqis noted the parallelism of registering to vote on a day celebrating one of America's most famous civil rights leaders. "We had no freedom there," said Siso, one of many Kurds signing up. "That is why we came to America. This is very ironic; we get to share this day with Martin Luther King."
The Washington Post, January 18, 2005

Nouman Shubbar, 41, a police sergeant in Philadelphia, said he left his home at 10 a.m. and drove 2 1/2 hours so he could be among the first to register. "It's a historical event," he said. "I'm very happy, and I'm very proud that for the first time we have free elections."
The Washington Times, January 18, 2005

Dwarfed by the steel-roofed exhibition hall and outnumbered by election officials, however, some Iraqis made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in numbers. "We are voting for our country," said Rana Moosa, a 26-year-old woman with joint Iraqi and British citizenship who has spent most of her life in Britain. "I feel like I'm going to have a new country," Ms. Moosa said, pushing a stroller carrying her 15-month-old son, Sam. Like others, she said, she was not too sure who would be campaigning for her vote. "I don't know who to vote for,' she said. "There wasn't any vote before. We couldn't vote like this because we had to deal with Saddam."
The New York Times, January 18, 2005

Muhanned Fadhil, 55, a trader who lives in Sadr City, a large Shiite slum in the capital, said he could not believe the park had reopened. "My family and my children are very happy," he said. "The people should be united and not be afraid. We were afraid for 35 years under the oppression of Saddam, and today is our chance."
The Washington Post, January 24, 2005

That principal trend in Iraqi Shiism, known as quietism, rejects the kind of political role for the clergy that it has in Iran. Indeed, some prominent Iraqi Shiite religious leaders note that the Iranian government, after taking power in 1979, marginalized and persecuted Iranian followers of the quietist school in that country. "It's a completely different concept of government," Mr. Shahristani said, referring to the Iraqi government. "The Iraqi government and the constitution will seek neither an Islamic government nor the participation of Islamic clerics in the government."
The New York Times, January 24, 2005

"Going to the polling stations is a victory for the Iraqi people," said Ali Danif, a 45-year-old writer. "With the election," he said, "the pages of the totalitarian order will be turned and never opened again." Yassin smiled. "I'm optimistic, but I know there will be obstacles and difficulties. "He nodded to the others and said: "It's just the beginng."
The Washington Post, January 14, 2005

Al-Sistani, Iraq's most powerful and respected Shiite cleric, has said it is a religious duty of every man and woman to vote on election day. "We are in a country where the security situation is bad, therefore elections are a necessity," said Maitham Faysal, an aide to al-Sistani. "The elections cannot be postponed because this will lead to a political and legal vacuum. We are country under occupation. We want an Iraq that protects freedoms, a democratic Iraq for all Iraqis, an Iraq that respects the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people," al-Hakim said.
Associated Press Worldstream, January 14, 2005

"We have dreamed all of our lives of putting that piece of paper in the ballot box," said Hanish, an international relations professor who fled Iraq in 1980 after being forced to sign his own execution papers. "If the election was anywhere in the world, I would go to participate."
"We are living in pure misery," Hussein said. "The elections are a glimpse of hope to allow the Iraqi people to become human again."
Los Angeles Times, January 14, 2005

"What has happened has happened," the Iraqi president told reporters, speaking in English. "But the war rid Iraq of a vicious regime which established a dynasty of villains. I'm not going to go into a hypothetical answer, but right now we are in the middle of a political process,' and the country is determined to make the elections a success," he said.
Associated Press Worldstream, January 13, 2005

Instead of trying to halt the elections, Ayad al Samaraee, deputy chairman of the Iraqi Islamic Party, said the party would focus on giving Sunnis a voice in the new government, and was reaching out to other parties and encouraging them to work together.
The Kansas City Star, January 13, 2005

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