Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Iraqi expats line up to vote

Soumar Tammo made two trips to the Iraqi election poll in Skokie — Saturday to vote, Sunday to celebrate.

“I came to vote for my brothers and sisters back home,” said Tammo, a Chicago resident, decked out in a dress featuring the Assyrian flag. “This hasn’t happened for 50 years. Everyone was excited.”

Iraqi expatriates danced and sang in the parking lot outside the Skokie polling location at the Chaldo-Assyrian Community Center, 9131 Niles Center Road, where the line to vote sometimes stretched out the door.

Polls weren’t particularly busy Friday, said Chicago resident Ashur Gewargis, the presiding officer at one of the voting stations. But the Saturday and Sunday turnout kept officials busy.

Gewargis said voters came from as far away as Nebraska.

Once voters passed through security and entered a voting station, officials checked them in and dipped their right index finger in purple ink — to prevent people from voting twice — before handing them their ballots.

After they dropped their ballots in the plastic bins, Iraqis gathered outside to talk about the election. Entire families went to the polls, even those too young to vote. More than 6,000 people registered to vote at the Chicago polls.

“Everyone came today because everyone wanted to vote for their country,” Chicago resident Ronny Maty said. “It’s our home, you know.”

Similar scenes played out across the United States and thirteen other countries where the Iraq Out-of-Country Voting Program, run by the International Organization for Migration, set up polls.

Nearly 26,000 people registered in five U.S. cities — Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C. — to vote for the 275-member assembly that will draft Iraq’s new constitution.

More than 16,000, or 63 percent, of registered Iraqi expatriates in the United States had voted through Sunday, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Meanwhile in Iraq, people embraced democracy in large numbers Sunday, standing in long lines to vote in defiance of mortar attacks, suicide bombers and boycott calls. Pushed in wheelchairs or carts if they couldn’t walk, the elderly, the young and women in veils cast ballots in Iraq’s first free election in a half-century.

“We broke a barrier of fear,” said Mijm Towirish, an election official, according to the Associated Press.

Iraqi election officials said it might take 10 days to determine the vote’s winner and said they had no firm estimate of turnout among the 14 million eligible voters.

“The world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East,” said President George W. Bush, who called the election a success. He promised the United States would continue training Iraqi soldiers, hoping they can soon secure the country America invaded nearly two years ago to topple Saddam Hussein.

Iraqis have “firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology” of terrorists, Bush said.

But Weinberg freshman Marwa Mekki, who has family in Iraq, said she has doubts.

“I’m a bit cautious to say this election will solve the problems of Iraq,” Mekki said. “I really hope that something good comes out of it.”

At the Skokie polling location, Chicago resident Hewe Hermic said she felt even the ballots symbolized change.

“(Past ballots said), ‘Do you want to vote for Saddam Hussein? If you want to say yes, check here. If you want to say no, give me your address,'” Hermic said. “Give your address so they can kill you.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Elizabeth Gibson at [email protected].

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Iraqi expats line up to vote