Southgate, Mich.–The palpable joy that has permeated this voting place over a weekend (see more here) of voting swelled Sunday as Iraqi Americans shared information from their native land that voter turnout there had been healthy and virtually violence-free.
Khaled Ridha, 34, came to the United States in 2000. “I talked to my mother this morning after she voted in Baghdad,” he said after casting his own vote here at the Southgate polling station with his wife and small child. “Yesterday they received a note threatening their life if they voted. But she and my father woke up at 7 A.M. this morning and were the first ones to vote at their polling place.”
Critical of the negative U.S. media coverage that has cast democracy in Iraq as a hopeless cause, these Iraqi expatriates were quick to point out why Iraqis were not intimidated by terrorism when so much was at stake. “It’s a small price to pay if somebody dies,” said Fahad Al-Diwar, a Baghdad expatriates who is a poll worker here. “This is the most historic moment of our lives.”
Al-Diwar recounted a phone call with friends in Iraq who had been screened by security, then escorted onto buses, then transported safely to the polls to vote. The process here in Southgate is an interesting mirror on events in Baghdad as Iraqi voters have come here in droves, using the same ballots and ballot boxes as those seen in their native Iraq to cast votes for Iraq’s 275-seat national assembly.
Their faces glow with pride at hearing of the peaceful voting in Iraq. “Of course,” grins Bashir Shallal. “The terrorists have nothing to offer. This is their last gasp.”
Iraqi expatriates voters arrive at the polls in Southgate, Mich.
Voters arrive at the polling place, a converted warehouse, and are greeted by lawn signs–in Arabic–urging votes for particular political parties.
Voters must pass through security before entering the polling place.
Once inside the polling station, these registered voters cast their ballot for one political party as an Iraqi flag waves nearby.
An Iraqi family celebrates their vote as poll workers applaud.
Women of all ages show their pride in Iraq’s first election in 50 years – an election in which an estimated 60 percent of voters will be women.
(All photos by Henry Payne/NRO)
–Henry Payne is editorial cartoonist for the Detroit News and a freelance writer.