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January 30, 2005 4:24 p.m. EST

 
 
 
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Bloggers Share the View
From Election Day in Iraq

By VAUHINI VARA
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE
January 30, 2005 4:24 p.m.

Bloggers have been buzzing about Iraq's first free election in half a century. These Web logs whose authors run the gamut from professional journalists to ordinary Iraqis looking to share their observations have been chronicling the situation in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Here is a sampling of what's being written by those inside the country. Note that many bloggers don't reveal their real names, we have not verified their reports.

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"Ali" of Free Iraqi reported that he woke up 1 by 6:30 a.m. local time to vote -- "I do this once every century." He recalled: "The voting center that was chosen in our district is a high school in the middle of the neighborhood. This was the same place I went in 1996 to cast my vote in a poll asking if we wanted to have Saddam as a president for life or not. I had to go at that time. The threats for anyone who refused to take that poll were no less than the death penalty." Later, he added: "This time we went by choice and the threat was exactly the opposite."

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[election]2 ELECTION IN IRAQ
Iraq Votes: 3 Images from across Iraq on election day

City by City: 4 Reviewing turnout and incidents of violence

Iraq's Election: 5 Explaining the election and its aims

Complete coverage 6

At Cigars in the Sand 7 , an American working in Baghdad reported driving three bus loads of Iraqis to polling centers. "Every bus load has sang and danced the entire drive home," he wrote. He posted a picture of a polling center -- "WELLCOME" was painted in English on the wall (he notes it's the thought, not the spelling, that counts) -- and said the men waiting in line seemed unfazed by the "multiple" explosions that could be heard in the distance. The blog has several interesting photographs from election day, including some from inside polling places. The site's author said he planned to spend tonight dodging celebratory gunshots. "After that," he wrote, "it's back to the hard task of capturing the momentum and translating it into real political access and choice. That will be long and difficult undoubtedly plagued by further violence and setbacks. Today is a new beginning, not an end."

* * *

Husayn Uthman changed the name of his blog 8 from "Democracy in Iraq" to "Democracy in Iraq (Is Here!)." The 26-year-old Iraqi described his turn at the polls. "My voting was only a simple act. I went, I identified myself, got my finger stained, filled out a ballot and dropped it in a box," he writes. "It is not a complex or grand process to the eye, but it is one that I will forever remember and will recount to my children, and their children." On a blog called The Mesopotamian 9 , the author wrote, "This is a very hurried message, while we are witnessing something quite extraordinary. I myself have voted and so did members of my family. Thank God for giving us the chance."

Several bloggers gave thanks to the U.S. government. Among them, a writer identified only as "Hammorabi," who operates a blog under the same name 10 : "Our thanks go to George W. Bush who will enter the history as the leader of the freedom and democracy in the recent history! He and his people are our friends for ever!" Others said it was too soon to celebrate. "The current early and premature Iraqi election is being marketed as THE event, THE peak, THE happening! As if everything will be over after the day of elections! Just like in some stupid love movies where the curtain falls after the two lovers get married," wrote "Raed" of Raed in the Middle 11 . "What matters is not the election, what matters is what will happen next."

* * *

Several bloggers described the blue ink that stained the fingers of those who had voted -- a measure to prevent people from voting more than once. From I Should Have Stayed Home 12 , written by two Americans in Iraq: "The permanent ink that so many people were afraid of is being worn as a mark of pride by every single person I have seen in the streets. They hold up their fingers to show that they voted." According to Iraq the Model 13 , one of the more popular Iraqi blogs: "Everyone we saw was holding up his blue tipped finger with broad smiles on the faces while walking out of the [polling] center."

* * *

Freelance journalist Christopher Allbritton updated his blog 14 several times during the day. Early on, he described the strict rules that were being enforced in the name of security. "No driving, dusk to dawn curfews, states of emergency," he wrote. "If that's what it takes to provide security in Iraq, why erase one police state only to replace it with another?" Later, he wrote that those he saw at polling centers "looked happier than I've seen them in months" By the end of the day, he deemed the election a success. "Everyone out on the streets is happy, even the Iraqi security forces who will laugh and joke with journalists -- the first time they've done it in months," he wrote.

* * *

On A Star From Mosul 15 , a 16-year-old Iraqi girl wrote about feeling guilty for not voting -- and jealous of her grandmother, aunt and uncle, who were old enough to cast their votes. "Don't be angry at me," she wrote. "I have nothing to do with me not voting." Her uncle writes a blog called Life in Baghdad 16 , and is fond of verbose postings. On Thursday, he wrote a lengthy discourse explaining that he was conflicted on whether or not to vote. Many in his family had urged him not to, fearing for his safety. But he feared that if he didn't vote, the guilt would be overwhelming. Today, he revealed his decision in a two-word entry: "I did." 17

Write to Vauhini Vara at vauhini.vara@wsj.com 18

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(1) http://iraqilibe.blogspot.com/2005/01/best-eid-i-ever-had.html
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(6) http://wsj.com/Iraq
(7) http://cigarsinthesand.blogspot.com
(8) http://democracyiniraq.blogspot.com/
(9) http://messopotamian.blogspot.com/
(10) http://hammorabi.blogspot.com/2005/01/festival-of-birth-of-new-iraq-great.html
(11) http://raedinthemiddle.blogspot.com/
(12) http://ishouldhavestayedhome.blogspot.com/
(13) http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com
(14) http://www.back-to-iraq.com/
(15) http://astarfrommosul.blogspot.com/
(16) http://thoughts04.blogspot.com/
(17) http://thoughts04.blogspot.com/2005/01/i-did.html
(18) mailto:vauhini.vara@wsj.com
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