Monday, January 31, 2005


INK STAINED FINGERS - THE MARK OF FREEDOM,,SB110713906141940778,00.htmlmod=opinion&ojcontent=otep
For the flavor of events in Iraq unmediated by Western reporters, check some of the local Weblogs., (is) compiled by a pair of brothers (Omar and Mohammed) in Baghdad. Here's a sample of how they described yesterday's election:

"We had all kinds of feelings in our minds while we were on our way to the ballot box except one feeling that never came to us, that was fear. We could smell pride in the atmosphere this morning; everyone we saw was holding up his blue-tipped finger with broad smiles on the faces while walking out of the center. I couldn't think of a scene more beautiful than that.

From the early hours of the morning, People filled the street to the voting center in my neighborhood; youths, elders, women and men. Women's turnout was higher by the way. And by 11 a.m. the boxes where I live were almost full! Anyone watching that scene cannot but have tears of happiness, hope, pride and triumph.

The sounds of explosions and gunfire were clearly heard, some were far away but some were close enough to make the windows of the center shake but no one seemed to care about them as if the people weren't hearing these sounds at all.

I saw an old woman that I thought would get startled by the loud sound of a close explosion but she didn't seem to care, instead she was busy verifying her voting station's location as she found out that her name wasn't listed in this center.

How can I describe it!? Take my eyes and look through them my friends, you have supported the day of Iraq's freedom and today, Iraqis have proven that they're not going to disappoint their country or their friends. Is there a bigger victory than this? I believe not."
The New Iraq
So much for the argument that Arabs don't want democracy.
Monday, January 31, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

The world won't know for a week or longer which candidates won yesterday's historic Iraq elections, but we already know the losers: The insurgents. The millions of Iraqis who defied threats and suicide bombers to cast a ballot yesterday showed once and for all that the killers do not represent some broad "nationalist" resistance. ...

... As a certain American President said recently, the spread of freedom is essential to winning the war against terrorism. Some of America's leading lights scowled and said that Mr. Bush was "over-reaching"; yesterday, millions of Iraqis offered a more eloquent rebuttal.
Happy Birthday
A roundup of the past two weeks' good news from Iraq.
Monday, January 31, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST


Readers must've felt as if they'd gone through a time warp if they picked up their paper Sunday morning after watching the news on television. In scenes unimaginable only two years ago--and unimaginable to the press's professional pessimists two days ago--millions of ordinary Iraqi men and women braved terrorist violence and came out to vote in their first free election.

Kassim Abood, a senior adviser to the out-of-country voting program, told journalists outside a polling station in Sydney, "I think a lot of Iraqis are very proud today. People coming to me, shake [my] hand, hug me, kissing me and tell me 'congratulations,' it's wonderful." London's Daily Telegraph reported that "exiles danced in the street as they cast their ballots at nine polling stations in Australia. Turnout was high and some proudly displayed the blue ink on their fingers which proved that they had cast their ballots, calling it 'a mark of freedom.' "

Turnout in Iraq itself was considerably higher. Millions came out to vote, despite well-advertised threats of Election Day violence. Some three dozen people around the country died in suicide, grenade and mortar attacks, but vastly more Iraqis were stained with ink than with blood.

Some rode on donkey-carts. Others piled into buses laid on for voters. Most came on foot, steadying the elderly and pushing the disabled in wheelchairs to the ballot box. Voters in Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Najaf turned out in force on Sunday, many walking for kilometres through filthy streets, to cast their ballots in Iraq's first multi-party election in half a century. . . .

Some began trickling in as soon as the region's 240 polling centres opened at 7 a.m. By mid-morning queues of voters snaked around schools used as voting places, everyone holding their documents at the ready. "It is a good feeling to experience democracy for the first time," said Isra Mohammed, a housewife in the black Islamic robe traditionally worn by women in southern Iraq.

To sample some of the joy of average Iraqis undiluted by the media, read Iraqi bloggers. Mohammed and Omar write in the aftermath of the vote:
We could smell pride in the atmosphere this morning; everyone we saw was holding up his blue tipped finger with broad smiles on the faces while walking out of the center. [We] couldn't think of a scene more beautiful than that.

Read also blogger Ali's journey to the polling station.

Blogger Zeyad writes: "My mother was in tears watching the scenes from all over the country."

Aala wrote about "suicide bombers versus suicide voters"; the latter have won the day.

Hammorabi reported on crowds demonstrating when some polling stations failed to open on time in Mosul.

And the Friends of Democracy site is running firsthand reporting from around the country.
"Today the people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East. In great numbers, and under great risk, Iraqis have shown their commitment to democracy. By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists. They have refused to be intimidated by thugs and assassins. And they have demonstrated the kind of courage that is always the foundation of self-government.

Some Iraqis were killed while exercising their rights as citizens. We also mourn the American and British military personnel who lost their lives today. Their sacrifices were made in a vital cause of freedom, peace in a troubled region, and a more secure future for us all.

The Iraqi people, themselves, made this election a resounding success. Brave patriots stepped forward as candidates. Many citizens volunteered as poll workers. More than 100,000 Iraqi security force personnel guarded polling places and conducted operations against terrorist groups.

... Across Iraq today, men and women have taken rightful control of their country's destiny, and they have chosen a future of freedom and peace.

... There's more distance to travel on the road to democracy. Yet Iraqis are proving they're equal to the challenge. On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the people of Iraq on this great and historic achievement."

--President George W. Bush

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