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Ross
11-10-2004, 03:56 PM
For those interested in an unbiased insiders view of what is going on in Iraq I'll repeat my recommendation of http://healingiraq.blogspot.com/. The writer who goes by the name Zeyad is obviously a very bright and well-educated native Iraqi. He has an encylopedic knowledge of Iraq history. He is neither pro or anti-US, but is critical of religious fanaticism. He is a voice for reason. And his writing gives a lot more depth to the Iraqi picture than do popular media reports. They include a lot of his personal experiences interacting with other Iraqis.

Anyway, he wrote a few days ago about the upcoming elections and how different parts of Iraq are reacting. Very interesting reading, at least to me. It gives some hope for democracy there, while not sugarcoating the difficulties. Here is his blurb:

Onset of Elections Fever in Iraq
I mentioned before in a previous post that a significant section of Iraqis seemed uninterested in the forthcoming national elections for various reasons, but that the general feeling in Kurdistan and southern Iraq was a bit different. My statement still holds true except that the last part of it is a gross understatement; Iraqis here in the south are ardently making preparations on all levels for the event, almost with religious zeal.

Posters with detailed instructions on voters registration are on every street corner and lamp post in Basrah, badly printed handbills and leaflets calling for people to vote are widely circulated, photocopied statements and fatwas from the Marji'iya and Hawza clerics in support for elections are hanging in stores, hospitals, governmental departments, and coffee shops. City councils, municipalities, civil society organisations, mosques and husseiniyas are all arranging and holding meetings to prepare for the voting procedures.

People in Baghdad and the surrounding areas may say that elections are irrelevant or that the outcome has already been decided by Zionists/infidels/neocons/imperialists/capitalists/Jews and that puppets/agents/lackeys/mercenaries/traitors will rule the country, but for the people around me here in Basrah, this is a historical moment they have all been waiting for. I admit that I may not share their enthusiasm but it is surely an encouraging scene to witness.

While many people in Baghdad still have no idea about the voting process or what/who they are supposed to be voting for, our janitor here at the doctors residence meticulously described the whole procedure to me. Many in Baghdad, for example, still erroneously believe that voting will be for presidential candidates, whereas people here are aware that they would be voting to elect a 275 member National Assembly and governorate councils, and that Iraqi Kurds, in addition, vote to elect Kurdish parliament members.

I observed that many posters on the streets in support for elections contained some inappropriate and insinuating slogans, such as "A small minority is trying to deny the right of the majority to choose its destiny. Vote and show the intruders who the true Iraqis are," and "Ba'athist remnants and people of the evil triangle oppose the elctions because it will demonstrate to all their true numbers."

A recent statement from Sistani advised local councils and clerics to help educate and assist people in distant villages to register for the voting. The statement also called for "people with disabilities, and even the elderly on their death beds" to vote because "every person counts and can influence the elections."

The Hawza also welcomed the decision to include Iraqis in exile in the elections. Some heated debates have been going on in Iraqi official circles on whether to include them or not. The Independent Electoral Commission claimed that there were a few technical difficulties. The National Council agreed on a further 90 billion dollars to the budget allocated for elections to ensure participation of Iraqi expatriates.

At least 4 million Iraqis live in exile with the majority living in the UK, Sweden, USA, Germany, Jordan, UAE, Iran and New Zealand. Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Syria, Libya and Yemen also have sizable Iraqi communities. Their votes have a significant importance since many of them are highly educated and have experienced western democracies firsthand.