Only hours separate us from a major historic day for our nation (too many historic days for Iraq in these two years!). Tomorrow will draw a line that would mark the beginning of a new era in Iraq; a constitutional Iraq will become reality.
It’s only a beginning since there will be more steps to go but it’s the right beginning because it’s a transition from temporary laws to a permanent-though amendable-constitution on which the people will assume control through their elected representatives and through their own direct votes.
It is really amazing how things have changed in Iraq; three years ago Saddam “won” 100% of the votes in a pathetic referendum that he designed in order to give legitimacy to his reign while yesterday even security detainees were allowed to express their opinion on the constitution through voting and the government and parliament are almost begging the 15 million plus voters to say ‘yes’!
And although many signs indicate that the document is on its way to be ratified, no one can say it is until the people decide which checkbox to tic tomorrow.
Some people would say “Is that all you won, after more than two years of war and violence? That’s only one basic right” well, that is the point; we’ve secured one key right that can help us secure the rest.
Approving this draft is not the end goal, it’s a step among others in this process of evolution in Iraq and it’s going to be the gate to more steps until we reach the day when we have a constitution that satisfies and serves the greatest majority of the people.
Now let me take you in a short journey in Baghdad; I woke up this morning and decided to take a tour to see Baghdad preparing for the referendum, first thing I saw and surprised me was a leaflet thrown in front of our door. It was calling for a ‘NO’ stating 10 reasons for doing that. I read the leaflet that had the Ba’athist tone with five out of 10 of the points said that approving this draft constitution is a Zionist goal. I tried hard to find a connection and of course there wasn’t any and it looked like a desperate attempt to use conspiracy theories.
To give you an example of the points in that paper I’ll tell you what one point was “what if an Iraqi woman married an Israeli man? Should we grant their children the Iraqi nationality!!!???” and yes, they used way too many exclamation points and question marks.
I walked away feeling more willing to vote with ‘yes’. Baghdad’s streets weren’t crowded as they usually are and checkpoints were everywhere and roads leading to the voting stations were mostly blocked. Most of these stations are located inside the buildings of schools and these in turn are inside residential blocks which makes them easier to protect.
People on the street, TV and radio are all talking about the coming historic event while papers went on hiatus since yesterday but many of them published the document on Wednesday to ensure that more people get to read it.
Although the distribution didn’t go perfectly, I doubt there are many who didn’t get the chance to take a look as the document was published many times on different outlets including websites and there were many discussions on TV where articles were discusses thoroughly. Add to this the thousands of workshops and lectures organized by NGOs. So I think it’s fair to say that only those who weren’t interested in the subject would say that they didn’t have the chance to read the document.
Of course SMSs on cell phones were also utilized for advertising this or that point of view. Yesterday I received an SMS from a Turkmen friend of mine asking me to vote ‘no’ and to forward the message to 10 other contacts!
Actually the Turkmen front decided to reject the draft some time ago and some Assyrian powers in Kirkuk joined them too so it is expected that we’re going to see many ‘no’ ballots in Kirkuk.
In Baghdad, some districts witnessed rallies celebrating the agreement between the Sunni .and the Kurdish and Sheat leaders on the constitution and people were flying Iraqi flags and firing fireworks.
The walls are covered by many of thousands of posters and banners; most of which encourage a ‘yes’ while some call for a ‘no’. The association of Muslim scholars accused the security forces of tearing their posters but in fact I saw many torn posters from both sides.
On the other hand, the Islamic Party is winning the respect of Iraqis for its courage and role in pushing the process forward; actually it’s a rare occasion where secular people thank and support a religious party for doing something. This can be understood when remembering that secular parties will be the ones to benefit more from the aftermath of this after the new parliament is elected.
In my opinion, this morning’s attacks on the offices of this party prove our idea when we said that no reconciliation is needed in Iraq and when we said that civil war in Iraq is not a strong possibility. It has shown that the conflict is not between the average citizens themselves but it’s rather a conflict between the average Iraqis and the terrorists and it has shown clear that this terrorism is not sectarian in nature but it’s in fact one of politics and interests.
I am so excited but a flashback from Saddam’s referendum three years ago still hurts; he wanted a 100% as the 99.96% of the previous one shocked the dictator. I was depressed that way and I decided not to go to the voting office and so did the rest of the family but my father was afraid that not going could be dangerous.
He said that maybe one member of the family could go alone and cast votes for the rest of us. We looked at each other thinking who’s going to volunteer to do this ugly job to protect the family. At that moment my father said “it was my generation that caused the misery we’re living in so I’m the one who should do this”.
I couldn’t stop him and I couldn’t utter a word but I felt sad for him; his sacrifice was big and I had teary eyes when I watched him taking our papers and heading out.
It is different this time father, no more 100% and a ‘no’ would make me happy just like a ’yes’ would do and no one ever will force us to do something against our will anymore.
Tomorrow will be another day for Iraqi bravery. May God protect you my people…you have suffered so much and you will still be suffering for some time but I am sure the future will be bright.
God bless you my people and all the freedom lovers who keep sacrificing to make this world a better place.