Triumph and tragedy for Iraq
- Iraqis Boycott Election Fraud
By 20 Iraqi Exiles
Al-Jazeerah, February 1, 2005
Iraq is being denied free and fair elections, after enduring decades
of Saddam's dictatorship. The US and British occupation governments
have engineered a process for reproducing the US-appointed Iraqi
Interim Government, to prolong the occupation and incite sectarian
and ethnic conflicts.
Millions of Iraqis, under siege in many parts of their homeland,
will be disenfranchised, while hundreds of thousands of second
generation Americans and Israelis could vote.
While boycotting this undemocratic exercise, we strongly condemn all
forms of violence against Iraqis participating in it. We, as exiles,
are confident that the vast majority of Iraqis, at home and abroad,
shall unite to end the US-led occupation and establish democracy,
whatever their stance on participation.
We echo opinions within Iraq stressing the impossibility of holding
free and fair elections while under occupation, and being subjected
to war crimes by the US-led forces. However, we support demands for
(1) Setting a strict timetable for speedy withdrawal of all
(2) Ceasing all attacks, and confining all occupation forces to
barracks until full withdrawal,
(3) Ending martial law and releasing all political prisoners,
(4) Establishing an independent election commission, led by Iraq's
senior serving and retired judges, and including all Iraq's
political forces. The commission can be assisted by anti-occupation
figures, e.g. Nelson Mandela, and the UN General Assembly."
1. Sami Ramadani: Senior lecture, London Metropolitan University
2. Haifa Zangana: Novelist, UK
3. Professor Kamal Majid, UK
4. Tahrir Numan: Journalist, UK
5. Dr. Imad Khadduri: Nuclear scientist, Toronto, Canada
6. Mundher Adhami: Researcher, Kings College, London University
7. Dr. Nadje Al-Ali: Exeter university, UK
8. Dr. Mousa Al-Hussaini: Writer and journalist, UK
9. Dr. Usama Al-Shabibi: Pharmacist-Pharmacologist, UK
10. Dr. Ali Assam: Computer expert: UK
11. Yasar Mohammed Salman Hasan: computer expert, UK
12. Dr. Mahboub Al-Chalabi, Petroleum expert, UK
13. Dr Subhi Toma: Social studies researcher, Paris
14. Jafar Al-Samarrai: Computer expert
15. Dr. Ali Al-Shahwani: Engineer
16. Zaid Numan, Chartered building Surveyor, UK
17. Hani Lazim, Computer expert: UK
18. Mohammed Aref: Science writer, UK
19. Fenik Adham: Councellor: UK
20. Mahmoud Al-Bayaty: Novelist, Sweden
For further information contact:
Department of Applied Social Sciences,
London Metropolitan University, City Campus,
Old Castle Street,
London, E1 7NT
Tel: 020 7320 1280
Fax: 020 7320 1034
Email: Sami.Ramadani @ londonmet.ac.uk
Triumph and tragedy for Iraq
Low level of Sunni participation tarnishes success of large poll
By Robert Fisk
01/31/05 "The Star" -- Baghdad - Even as the explosions thundered
over Baghdad, they came in their hundreds, and then in their
thousands. Entire families, crippled old men supported by their
sons, children beside them, babies in the arms of their mothers.
The Shi'ite Muslims of Baghdad yesterday walked quietly to polling
stations, to the Martyr Mohamed Bakr Hakim School in Jadriya,
without talking, through the car-less streets, the air pressure
changing around them as mortars rained down on the US and British
embassy compounds and the first of the day's suicide bombers
immolated himself and his victims, most of them Shi'ites, 3km away.
The Kurds voted, in their tens of thousands, but the Sunnis - 20% of
Iraq's population, whose insurgency was the principal reason for
this election - boycotted or were intimidated from the polling
The turnout figure, estimated at perhaps 72% of Iraq's 15-million
registered voters, represented both victory and tragedy. For while
the Shi'ites voted in their millions with immense courage, the Sunni
voice remained silent, casting into semi-illegitimacy the National
Assembly whose existence is supposed to provide the US with a
political excuse to extricate itself from its little Vietnam in the
And yes, there was the violence we all expected. There were nine
suicide bombers in Baghdad - the largest number ever to have killed
themselves on a single day anywhere in the Middle East.
An American mercenary and a US soldier were among the first to die
when mortars exploded across the American-appointed administration
buildings in central Baghdad. Then more than 20 voters were cut
down. Before dusk came news that a Royal Air Force C-130 Hercules
transport aircraft had crashed en route to the largely insurgent-
held city of Balad. In all, almost 50 people were killed across Iraq.
But it was the sight of those thousands of Shi'ites, the women
mostly in black hejab covering, the men in leather jackets or long
robes, the children toddling beside them, that took the breath away.
If Osama bin Laden had called these elections an apostasy, these
people, who represent 60% of Iraq, did not heed his threats.
They came to claim their rightful power in the land - that is why
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the grand marja of the Shi'ites of Iraq,
told them to vote - and woe betide the Americans and British if they
do not get it. For if this election produces a parliamentary
coalition which splits the Shi'ites and turns their largest party
into the opposition, then the Sunni insurgency will become a
"I came here," said a young man in the Jadriya polling
station, "because our grand marja told us that voting today was more
important than prayer and fasting."
An older man beamed with delight. "My name is Abdul-Rudha Abu
Mohamed and I am so happy today," he said. "They must elect a
president from us and we must be one with all Iraqis - and we must
Even the local election agent was close to tears. Taleb Ibrahim
admitted that he had participated in Saddam Hussein's one-man
elections but that this day marked the moment when the Shi'ites of
Iraq, after refusing to take revenge on their Ba'athist oppressors,
would show their magnanimity.
Even if the Sunnis were boycotting the poll, he said, "there is an
old saying that if the father becomes angry, we will have no
problems with his sons. We will make sure that these sons - the
Sunnis - have equal rights with us."
Across Baghdad, it was the same story; entire families moved as one
towards the polling stations while the air rang with explosions.
Just after voting started, there were 30 detonations in the city in
less than two minutes - but still they came as if on a family day
Bombs are now heartbeats in Iraq, and we could hear the thump of
explosions even above the low-flying American Apache choppers. Yet
along the empty roads, neighbours stopped to talk and show each
other the indelible ink on their index fingers that officials used
to ensure there were no double votes.
It was both the safest and the most dangerous of days.
At one polling station, I asked the first of the young Iraqi
soldiers who were to check us - all wore black woollen face masks so
that they could not be identified - if he was frightened.
"It doesn't matter," he said.
"I am ready to die for this day. We have got to vote."
Seven hours later I talked to him again and he, too, had the
indelible ink on his finger. "It's like you can change your future
or your faith," he said.
"We only had military coups and revolutions before. We voted 'yes'
or 'yes'. Now we vote for ourselves."
It was easy to imbibe the false optimism of the Western television
networks and the nonsense about Iraq's "historic" day - for it will
only have been historic if it changes this country, and many fear
that it will not.
No one I met yesterday believes the insurgency will end - many
thought it would grow more ferocious - and the Shi'ites in the
polling stations said with one voice that they were also voting to
rid Iraq of the Americans, not to legitimise their presence.
This is a message that the Americans and British will ignore at
On Baghdad's streets yesterday, the Americans deployed thousands of
troops, most of them trying to show some respect for the people,
watching them rather than threatening them with their rifles, which
is how they usually behave in the dangerous capital.
A certain Captain Buchanan from Arkansas even ventured a political
thought. "It's a pity the Sunnis aren't voting - it's their loss."
But of course it is also Iraq's loss and the Shi'ites' loss too -
and possibly America's loss. For without that vital minority
component, who will believe in the new parliament or the
constitution it is supposed to produce or the next government it is
supposed to create?
I asked a Sunni Muslim security guard what he thought would be the
future of his country.
He had not voted - in many Sunni cities only a third of the polling
stations opened - but he had thought a lot about this question.
"You cannot give us 'democracy' just like this. This is one of your
Western, foreign dreams," he said. "Before, we had Saddam and he was
a cruel man and he treated us cruelly. But what will happen after
this election is that you will give us lots of little Saddams."
©2005 The Star & Independent Online
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