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

Parties in Full Swing in Babylon

By Yaseen Madhloom in Hillah (ICR No. 100, 25-Jan-05)

Some politicians did their best to draw attention to themselves by driving through towns and cities across the Babil region – the location of historical Babylon – in vehicles rigged up with loudspeakers blaring out messages urging people to vote on January 30. Others opted for a selection of national, religious and sentimental songs to soften up the voters.

The various party headquarters are decorated with the flags and emblems of whichever group has its seat there, while some have set up loudspeakers outside to relay political speeches.

Abu Saif Marzooq, 60, head of the Badr Organisation in Babil’s provincial capital of Hillah, said loudspeakers have been rigged up at the party's branch offices to encourage people to vote. “We are trying to educate people and remove fear from their hearts,” said Marzooq.

The Badr Organisation is one of several Shia groups that are part of the United Iraqi Alliance, a bloc set up with the encouragement of the country's senior Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Sood Hashim al-Aeraji, who runs the Babil office of the Iraqi Republican Assembly party, said his group prefers more subtle campaigning methods. Instead of using loudspeakers, his party has been busy handing out flyers and putting up posters and banners all over the province.

“We don’t like chaotic campaigning or playing trumpets,” said al-Aeraji.

Nima Abu Hasan, second in command of the Islamic Dawa Party in the province, said activists from his group have been running voter-education seminars, as well as setting out its political message on posters. Dawa party is another Shia group within the United Iraqi Alliance.

“Real politicians have been absent from Iraq for decades,” said Hasan. “And Iraqis have been marginalised from the civilised and developed outside world.”

Interim prime minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord party has also been promoting itself here, targeting both its own supporters including tribal groups, and more generally encouraging people to vote. “We are encouraging Iraqi citizens to exercise their rights by electing whomsoever they want as a representative,” said party representative Sabah Abud.

Nofel al-Zubaidi, 28, owner of an internet cafe in Hillah, said he is pleased with all the political campaigning that has blossomed.

“It's a new thing for us,” he said. “And it represents a new kind of freedom and openness for Iraqis.”

This story has not been bylined because of concerns for the security of IWPR reporters.

Yaseen Madhloom is an IWPR trainee journalist in Iraq.

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