Iraqis cast their votes in Britain

1 / 2
Iraqi expatriates cheerfully participated in the elections in London under the watchful gaze of election observers. (AN photo by James Hanna)
2 / 2
Iraqi expatriates cheerfully participated in the elections in London under the watchful gaze of election observers. (AN photo by James Hanna)
Updated 12 May 2018
0

Iraqis cast their votes in Britain

  • Iraq's parliamentary election will be on May 12, 2018, but voting overseas are done in advance.
  • It is the fourth parliamentary election in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003 and the first since the defeat of Daesh last summer.

LONDON: With pride and cautious optimism for the future, Iraqi expatriates in the UK cast their votes in the national parliamentary elections on Thursday. 

In Central London, voters young and old cheerfully participated in the plebiscite under the watchful gaze of election observers. 

“Oh. Baghdad. Your love sits in my heart,” warbled Kadam Al-Ahmady, dropping his vote in the ballot box, proudly raising an index finger stained purple with election ink. 

“It would be shameful to let go of your love,” the elderly Al-Ahmady intoned. 

An upbeat mood prevailed on Thursday morning, as voters snapped selfies at the ballot boxes after selecting their choice of representatives for the Iraqi legislature.  

While the vote, which will be held on Saturday in Iraq, marks the fourth parliamentary election since the US-led invasion in 2003, it is the first time Iraqis will head to nationwide polls since the defeat of Daesh last summer. 

If previous elections have been held against the backdrop of intense sectarian violence, the comparative calm prevailing today has led some Iraqi voters to believe the election to form a new government will help bring the country together.  Younger voters in particular expressed eagerness for increased national unity.

“We should all think about Iraq … without difference for Kurdish or Turkmen or Sunni or Shiite,” said Mohammad Al-Bayati, a PhD student who traveled from Portsmouth with his wife and young sons. “It’s not just for us, but for our children,” he said. 

“This is another step in the right direction,” said Ali Khadr, a British Iraqi. 

Fifteen years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Khadr said that Iraqis are no strangers to the democratic process.  

“Voting in previous years felt almost routine. Whereas, now, for the first time in years, Iraq is witnessing visible progress. Certainly within my family, here and in Iraq, there is a real optimism for better days,”

Others voters, however, were less enthusiastic. 

“If you look at all the manifestos … regardless of which religious or ethnic group, all of them talk about building an Iraq full of institutions, and Iraq that is free of sectarianism,” said Mohanad Abdel Rahman, an Iraqi national who has lived most of his life in the UK. 

“It’s all nice platitudes but the reality on the ground suggests there is a very long way to go. “

Rawnaq Abdul Hamid, however, counts herself among the optimists. “I’ve got hope,” she told Arab News. The expectant mother, who has been living in the UK for 11 years, could scarcely hide her smile as she cast her ballot. 

“I came from Harrow to here just to vote,” she said. 

“We are looking forward to our country being better than before.” 

According to Raad Tamimi, who organized the UK proceedings on behalf of Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission, more than 10,000 expatriates will cast ballots at eight polling stations across the UK in the coming days. Voting procedures are being scrutinized by election monitors from Iraq’s political parties and members of civil society. Previous elections have been marred by allegations of fraud, and some remain concerned about ballot rigging. 

While a new biometric system implemented in Iraq makes voter fraud difficult within the country, election monitor Farhad Maruf worried that physical ballot boxes at UK polling stations could be manipulated. 

“My concern is fairness of the election, that’s the most important thing for me,” he said, his eyes fixed on a plastic ballot box sealed with tamper-evident zip-ties. 


Lebanon to form body to probe civil war disappearances

Updated 12 November 2018
0

Lebanon to form body to probe civil war disappearances

  • The long-awaited law would empower an independent national commission to gather information about the missing
  • Families and rights groups have been campaigning for the law since 2012, when it first went to parliament

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s parliament on Monday approved the formation of an independent commission to help determine the fate of thousands of people who went missing during the country’s civil war, which ended nearly three decades ago.
The long-awaited law would empower an independent national commission to gather information about the missing, collect DNA samples and exhume mass graves from the 1975-1990 conflict.
Families and rights groups have been campaigning for the law since 2012, when it first went to parliament.
“This is the first step toward giving closure to families of the missing hopefully,” said Rona Halabi, spokeswoman for the International Committee for the Red Cross. “This represents a milestone for the families who have waited for years to have answers.”
The Hague-based International Commission on Missing Persons says more than 17,000 people are estimated to have gone missing during the Lebanese civil war.
Lebanon’s National News Agency said lawmakers approved the law after voting on each of its 38 articles.
LBC TV said lawmakers initially protested, saying calls for accountability may affect current officials. The broadcaster said they were reassured the 1991 amnesty for abuses committed by militias during the war remains in place.
Many of Lebanon’s political parties are led by former warlords implicated in some of the civil war’s worst fighting.
“For the first time after the war, Lebanon enters a genuine reconciliation phase, to heal the wounds and give families the right to know,” Gebran Bassil, the country’s foreign minister tweeted.
The ICRC began compiling DNA samples from relatives of the disappeared in 2016 and has interviewed more than 2,000 families to help a future national commission.
DNA samples have been stored with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces and the ICRC. The law would allow Lebanese security forces to take part in the sample collection.