WASHINTON – Iraqis in the United States are determined to vote in the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections and share their feelings with Iraqis back home.
The Independent Supreme Commission of Election in Iraq announced 10 days ago that it would cooperate with the International Organization of Immigration to set up and supervise polling centers in 14 countries,including the United States.
Although few other details are known,Iraqis living in the capital's Virginia suburbs received the news well. They said they feel they are reconnected again,even though they don't know who is running yet.
During the 1980s and through the first Gulf War,hundreds of thousands of Iraqis escaped from Iraq.
The 2000 Census counted 38,000 Iraqi-born residents in the United States,and many of the 205,000 who identified themselves as Arabs are also Iraqis. An Internet search on Google revealed 75 Iraqi social clubs and groups around the United States.
Formally known as the Iraqi Opposition,most of the Virginia Iraqis have been away for 10 to 15 years. Many have become U.S. citizens,and others have become Americanized.
They feel that they have been cut off from of Iraq and pepper anyone who has been in Iraq recently with questions that always start with “ is it true that……” They
indicate disbelief that Iraqis are fighting Americans and Americans are fighting Iraqis.
As Iraq's first free elections approach,American-Iraqis showed extreme excitement about how Iraq is moving forward despite enormous security problems.
A group of Iraqi ex-patriots and political figures gathered last week Al Hewar Center in Vienna,Va.,a Washington suburb,to discuss Iraq updates and exchange views about their home country. The group meets weekly to discuss a variety of subjects in Arabic.
Last week's discussion was headed by Laith Kubba,a founder of the Iraqi National Congress,which is known for leading the Iraqi side of the war against Saddam Hussein's regime. Kubba,who is also well known in Iraq,is the senior program officer for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Endowment for Democracy,which is funded by the U.S. government. He outlined problems and offered solutions to the Iraqi scenario.
“We need a social accord” in which tribe leaders,traditional leaders and nationalists can unite hand in hand toward the future of Iraq,Kubba said. Political parties that agree on some issues now support each other,but most of the parties have no public support.
As of Tuesday,219 political parties had applied to participate in the elections,with 180 of them approved to run candidates.
“There are some Iraqis who want to establish a new Iraq based on ethnic or sectarian basis,” he said. Most of the political groups are based on ethnic and religious support – either Shiite,Sunni,Kurd or Turkmen – Kubba said,and voting “will be based on loyalty rather than the agenda of these parties.”
Mohammad Abdul-Qadir,a chemistry teacher visiting from Baghdad,agreed with Kubba. “I don't know who are these parties. I've never seen them or heard about them before,” Abdul-Qadir said.
But he said,“We are – the middle class – are kept out of the political scene” because none of the parties represents the middle class,which makes up the majority of Iraq's population.
“The Americans are the liberators of our country,” said Ali Jabir,an Iraqi playwright,who asked Kubba,“What do you think of the beheaders?”
Suddenly,another Iraqi jumped up to stop Jabir. “There is a big difference between beheaders and the resistance,” said Kamel Al-Anee,a civil engineer in Virginia.
Kubba agreed with both of them,saying that beheaders are criminals who don't represent Iraqis,and resistance is a legitimate right.
The armed resistance is part of the Iraqi society,“but I'm with the political resistance,” Kubba said.
Instead of fighting Americans,for example,he said Iraqis could file thousands of lawsuits against the American government for violations of international law.
Some groups are planning to boycott the election.
“The boycott would be effective and harmful if we didn't have a social accord,” Kubba said.
Kubba said a country can't write a constitution if half of the eligible voters stay home.
Kubba said that security is a big concern to Iraqis and the interim government. A real Iraqi army and security force can prevent things from getting out of control.
“The solution still in our hands,” he said.
“Iraqis need to find their own solutions,” he said and should not wait for someone who is from outside to give them solutions. “History is the best example,” Kubba said,noting that after a civil war,Lebanon is finally peaceful because the Lebanese found their own solutions.