Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Karbala Elderly Make Special Effort

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s call for Shia to vote brought out many of the old and frail.
By Ghassan Ali

Election officials reported a very high turnout in this Shia city just south of Baghdad, with many of the area’s elderly population leaving their homes to vote.

About 90 per cent of registered voters came to the polls on January 30, said Safa al-Mussawi, head of the electoral commission office in Karbala. He also said there were minor irregularities but the overall election went smoothly without any major incidents.

Barakat Muhamad, an election monitor at the Abu al-Shuhada polling station in the Hai al-Amil neighborhood, said he noticed that more women had voted than men. According to election law, 25 per cent of the 275-member transitional National Assembly have to be women.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s call to Shia to vote in the elections brought out many of the elderly.

Jafar Hashim Sakir, 43, escorted his 85-year-old father to the polls. It took them one hour to reach the nearest polling station, about one kilometre away, because they constantly had to stop so his father could take a rest.

“He insisted on participating in the election,” Sakir said, referring to his father. “This is the first time my father has left his home since the fall of Saddam in April 2003.”

Wassila Hassan’s daughter pushed her in a wheelchair for a few kilometres so she could vote. Hassan, who is 69 and paralysed, said she believes her vote will be a direct blow to Islamic militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is blamed for much of the violence in Iraq.

She added that her husband was killed and three of her sons were imprisoned because of her husband’s affiliation with the Islamic Dawa Party, which Saddam Hussein banned.

“We lost our life under suppression, torture and poverty, so we want to elect a government that can provide security and prosperity,” Hassan said. “ And I don’t want history to repeat itself again.”

Ghassan Ali is an IWPR trainee journalist in Iraq.