Peggy Gish

mood was one of celebration.  Iraqis in
the city of Khanaqin, northern Diyala province, crowded into polling centers on
provincial election day, 31 January.  Many
dressed in their best Kurdish or Arab traditional clothing or wrapped in flags.  “We are happy to express our democracy,”
several told us after voting, showing their purple tipped fingers. 

      As international independent election
observers, CPT-Iraq team members visited three polling sites where voting
procedures seemed efficient and workers seemed helpful and fair.  We saw no threatening behavior on the part of
Khanaqin police who guarded the sites.  But
not everyone walked out happy with purple fingers. 

      Farid Zhian, with his wife and adult son exclaimed,
“We won’t leave until we can vote, even if we have to stay all day!”  Saddam’s regime forced their family to leave
Khanaqin and move to Fallujah in the 1970’s. 
After they returned to the Khanaqin area, they applied to transfer their
food ration card which would allow them to vote here.  However, their names were not on the voting

      Family after family came to us with
similar stories and complaints.  We saw a
crowd of about 300 Kurds protesting and demanding the right to vote outside the
Independent High Electoral Commission’s (IHEC) office. 
Even though the physical voting process seemed fair, the IHEC registration
rules clearly disfavored the Kurds.

      Officials confirmed that about a million
Arab internally displaced people (IDPs) in southern Diyala province and
northern Baghdad province had the same difficulties voting as the Kurds in
Khanaqin and other areas.  After
protesting on the streets, however, the Arab IDP’s were allowed to vote.

      The different treatment of Arab voters
fuels the belief of many Kurds that the IHEC intentionally used its internal
voting regulations to reduce the number of Kurdish voters.  Unfortunately, this will only increase the
animosity and mistrust between Iraq’s
ethnic groups. 

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