Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1195, (1-7 May 2014)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1195, (1-7 May 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Iraqis insist on life

Iraq’s elections are going ahead against a backdrop of widespread violence, writes Nermeen Al-Mufti in Baghdad

Al-Ahram Weekly

The road towards an ordinary life in Iraq is still covered with blood, as more than 2,800 people have been killed in the country since January. However, this road, marked by the country’s general elections, is the only road forward, even if some 27 members of the security forces were killed and dozens were wounded on one day’s voting alone.

The early voting, two days before the official voting day, was meant to free the security forces to protect voters across Iraq. Seven attackers wearing suicide belts hit polling stations in Baghdad and cities north of the capital, while roadside bombs struck military convoys and targeted journalists covering the polling.

Qasim Mohamed, a soldier from Babel, sacrificed himself close to a polling centre in Hawija, 200 km north of Baghdad. He hugged an attacker wearing a suicide belt, and by doing so saved the lives of many others.

Blood and fear are everywhere, yet Iraqis insist on making the change necessary towards restoring their ordinary lives through participating in the elections. “The terrorist attacks won’t stop me from voting,” said Aliya Hussein, a teacher, who had lost her husband in a car bomb attack earlier this year. She added that “I will vote, as I want to provide a better life for my four children.”

“I hope the candidate whom I am going to vote for will not disappoint me as the others whom I voted for in the last two elections have done,” said Emad Omar, an engineer, adding that “in the previous general elections we faced pressure to make the some hundred candidates the new rich of Iraq. They have done nothing for us, and they have made us feel they are against us.”

“Many lawmakers have seemed as if they don’t live in Iraq. They have been applying an agenda that is openly against Iraq and not only against the voters,” commented Saad Izzi, a political analyst.

Amidst the electoral campaign leading up to the elections, floods devastated the area west of Baghdad because gunmen had closed the gates of the Falluja Dam. A member of the Abu Ghraib council said that the canal’s capacity in the area was 30 cubic metres per hour, but after the closing of the Dam it had had to cope with 100 cubic metres per hour, causing flooding.

The Ministry of Migration and Displaced Persons was quoted as saying that it had registered 700 families from Abu Ghraib whose homes had been submerged. It was also currently registering 1,000 more who had fled to neighbouring areas, especially Baghdad.

A UN press release stated last Sunday that the organisation was delivering humanitarian assistance to the disaster-stricken area of Abu Ghraib, saying that “in a concerted effort between the UN Country Team, its implementing partners and the Iraqi authorities, humanitarian assistance was delivered to the population affected by the floods in the Abu Ghraib district.”

The World Food Programme (WFP) mobilised 1,500 food parcels, UNICEF distributed 1,500 hygiene kits and the UNHCR mobilised 300 core relief items. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is currently coordinating with the Ministry of Health to deliver two inter-agency emergency health kits (each kit can meet the needs of 10,000 people) and one trauma kit (sufficient to carry out 100 major surgeries).

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank our interlocutors on the ground for facilitating the dispatch of much-needed assistance to the affected population at such short notice,” the special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov said.

“The UN will continue to address the immediate needs of the thousands of families affected by the flooding.”

An inter-agency rapid assessment mission took place on April 24, in coordination with the provincial council and the mayor of Abu Ghraib, to evaluate the humanitarian situation caused by the recent flooding, along with the number of people affected and their immediate needs. 

12,000 families have lost their crops and livestock and have been constrained to flee Abu Ghraib, while another 11,000 families have been found to be at risk, with urgent need for food, water, hygiene kits and health care.

Meanwhile, on Facebook Iraqis have recalled the late politician Ali Al-Wardi, who said in the 1950s that the Iraqis would elect religious parties in Iraq and then go to live in a secular country. Iraqi activists contend that the secular blocs will win the elections, but that the situation is unlikely to be changed. 

Issam Rajab, an activist, said that Iraqi intellectuals were used to criticising and doing nothing. In the current elections, he said, many intellectuals were standing as candidates, but few were optimistic.

Still, the Iraqis will achieve an act of heroism by going to the polling centres despite the terror and the violence. They are insisting on life. It is to be hoped that they will succeed this time.

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