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

Prime Minister Gets Gypsy Vote

By Hussein Ali al-Yasiry in Diwaniyah (ICR No. 108, 01-Feb-05)

“We participated in the election because we want a united, democratic, and free Iraq,” said al-Zhuur resident Naseer Ali, 28. “I chose Allawi because he is good with the people, and I hope he can safeguard our rights.”

Gypsies interviewed by IWPR in the village focused on the rights issue, saying they thought Allawi had made a good job of protecting their ethnic group’s rights.

Sheikh Hami Matrud, the chief of the gypsy community in Diwaniyah, about 200 kilometres south of Baghdad, said his people voted so as to make their voices heard and “challenge the terrorists”.

He also added that most of the 11,000 gypsies in the city voted for Allawi's coalition, the Iraqi List, and his party, the Iraqi National Accord.

Many gypsies said they voted despite receiving threats from people calling for a boycott.

From al-Zhuur, people had to travel 20 kilometres to get to the nearest polling station. Many of the mud homes in the village - which has a population of 4,000 - had posters of Allawi taped on their walls.

People here said they were prompted to use their votes by the appeal made by Iraq's supreme Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, for everyone to come to the polls. But they chose Allawi's bloc over the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shia-led political coalition supported by Sistani.

Shaima Qassim, 45, said she was proud that as a woman, she was able to vote. “We hope Allawi’s list will improve our living conditions," she said. "We hope he can provide security and [public] services."

Hussein Ali al-Yasiry is an IWPR trainee journalist in Iraq.

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