As Iraqis prepare to hold a landmark election the BBC News website resumes its daily Iraq log. For two weeks, we will be publishing a range of accounts from people inside Iraq about their day-to-day lives.
In our fourth instalment, we hear about ways to have fun despite the pressures, noisy campaigning in the north and talk of civil war.
You can bookmark this page and come back to read the latest posts each day.
SOMETHING TO MAKE MY CHILDREN FORGET
Posted by Tariq Iraqi student, Hit, 27 January
Another quiet day for us here. Yesterday I stayed at home mostly. In the afternoon I went and caught some fish, then my family and I went out into the desert. We found a nice, empty spot where we could all sit and relax. We searched for some wood, got a fire going then grilled the fish I had caught just before sunset.
It's nice to get away, I like being able to use just what is around me with my hands - I like to be practical. During school terms, the children have so much study and time is short - it is nice to take the kids away from all the trouble and ease their pains.
So I made the food and my wife sat feeding our smallest child, while the rest of our kids played football, ran around singing and laughing. Then we all sat around the same dish and ate what I had cooked, then my elder sons tried to clean our cars, they did quite well! It is nice to give them something to do, something to make them forget.
Then, just as sunset broke, we drove back to my relatives across the bridge from our home. At their home they were having problems with their computer, so I sat and played cards with my brothers. The electricity supply here is OK compared to some parts of Iraq, we have a local generator which we look after, and my brother helps maintain the machines.
CAMPAIGN TRUCKS CAUSE TRAFFIC JAMS
Posted by Susan Raymond US aid worker, near Kirkuk, 27 January
As a foreigner living and working in northern Iraq, I am able to observe some of the election activity up close. Some of the time, since I'm so busy with my work, you forget what a historic occasion it is. As far as safety and security go, everyone is aware of the possibility of terrorist attacks. But this area of the country has been very safe due to both the supportive attitude of most Kurds and the experienced, active local security forces.
Most people in my city don't seem too worried, though the expats in my organisation are going to take some extra security precautions. We have heard that car traffic is going to be pretty much shut down on election day, but rumours the mobile phone service will be suspended in order to prevent bad guys from using it to plan attacks is probably just that - a rumour. Even if it does go down, it won't make a huge difference, since half the time the system is too busy to get calls through easily.
Lately the streets have had more of a party atmosphere, with cars going around bearing Kurdish flags or the flags of the political parties. Trucks mounted with loudspeakers have been touring the neighbourhoods and blaring election messages and songs. I joked with local friends that I had been planning to vote for the one of the major parties, but since they caused a traffic jam and delayed my journey, I changed my mind. (Of course, not being Iraqi, I can't vote.) The local television station has also been full of ads and programmes about the election.
I have heard that Iraqis in general have to travel to whatever town they are registered in, in order to vote. Some aren't willing or able to go to the trouble to do this. Some are cynical and think the two main opposing political parties in the north of Iraq will end up shooting each other again, like they did in the early to mid-1990s. But I think a lot of people in northern Iraq will vote, because they want to do what they can to ensure Kurdish rights and their semi-independence in Iraq's future. As they say in Kurdish, they will "give their voice.
STOCKPILING FOOD AND TALK OF CIVIL WAR
Posted by Rana Iraqi medical worker,
Baghdad, 27 January
We are having a hard time here and are nearly locked up in our houses. There is little electricity and I have been having difficulty sending emails. Everyone here is afraid. We believe it is going to be a bloody week. Of course, what we desperately need is security. Every day there are innocent people killed because of explosions and shootings, which have become almost routine. Our neighbourhood is one of the most dangerous places in Baghdad, so we have had to move to a relative's house until the election is over. Where our home is we were threatened. We were told by certain people if we took part in the elections we would get killed.
We have been told to stay at home these days, so most of the staff at my hospital are off work. The streets are nearly empty, there are few private cars out and it is mainly buses and minibuses that are clogging up the streets, and even then only during daytime. Normal life is paralysed because of the shortage of petrol, and prices have nearly doubled because shopkeepers cannot restock easily. Some food is already disappearing from the markets.
We can afford most foods and clothes. They're not expensive here. But meat is simply too expensive now. Petrol prices are low if you get it from the station, but you have to stay overnight sometimes in the queue and many people resort to buying it on the black market, where about 10 litres costs 15,000 Dinars ($10). Some people are talking about a civil war taking place after the elections so they are starting to store food, water and oil, but this only causes more shortages.
As for campaigning, it mainly takes place in the mosques. Lectures are given to encourage people to vote in spite of these tough times and the violence. So we are in middle of chaos, basically, when all we wish is to live a normal, peaceful life.
These are some of the comments we have received so far about this log.
Some of the comments refer to previous logs:
As an ex-South African, the people of Iraq are close to my heart at this time. South Africa went through tremendous changes and I clearly recall the fear amongst the people in the days before the first democratic election. People stocked up on food, planned emergency procedures and escape routes. I remember the feeling of insecurity - increased acts of bombings and terror led up to the big day. We all believed there was a real chance of civil war. The big day arrived at red dawn and never was there more anxiety amongst a nation as then. But the day passed without much ado. I wish you the strength of character, value of understanding and wisdom of age to take this process in your stride, and to be whoever you are, regardless of what you are in.
Tania Solomons, Crawley ,West Sussex
What a refreshing look at life through the eyes of Iraqi people. I spent 17 months working in Iraq, mostly Baghdad, from June 2003 until November, the only reason I'm not still there is that I was blown up by a suicide bomber and am still on crutches with a broken leg and ribs and burns. I argue with "non-believers" or anti-war demonstrators whenever I am in position to and tell them of the chance for a better future. I hope to return in a few months when my strength/fitness improves and carry on the vital work of rebuilding the country, so one day we can look back and know we were right. Take care all my Iraqi friends.
Pete, London ,England
My daughter is married to a Kurdish-American who is in Iraq as an interpreter/translator. Both of them are voting this Sunday, he in the north of Iraq, she in Nashville, one of the hubs where Iraqi-Americans can vote. She as a spouse can vote and has registered to do so. While it is encouraging to see the excitement of the Iraqi-Americans and Kurdish-Americans coming from all over America to one of the five cities designated as hubs to vote this Sunday, it is our hope that the Iraqi people living in the country will find the strength and courage to do so also, despite their fears.
Trish Lewis, Fargo, North Dakota, USA
This message is to Timsa in UK. In the Kurdish area, it is more peaceful and they do not have as much problems. There are suffering Iraqis and more people need to know about this. There is no time as the elections are coming up. Kurdish areas are nice places. We people in Baghdad and other places are suffering.
Abu Ali, Baghdad, Iraq
First, I'd like to thank you for your efforts to enlighten those of us who are so far removed from the emotional effects of the war on those who must live through them. These logs provide a rare opportunity to empathize with both the Iraqis and the foreigners occupying the nation as facilitators of democracy. But although I find the reflections in the logs sincere and forthright, I do want to point out that to portray these people as ordinary is somewhat disingenuous. Based upon the biographical data of the Iraqi log contributors, they appear to represent the minority of the Iraqi people - the 40% who are literate. Less than 0.2% of Iraqis are internet users (based upon The World Factbook). It is the remaining majority that I'd also like to hear from as well. I hope that future logs will provide a more objective viewpoint of pre-election life in post-Saddam Iraq through the eyes of more ordinary Iraqis. With only a fragment of the story, we gain only a fragment of the truth.
Julia Guthrie, California, USA
So many North American blissful ideals and comments on this page... I wonder what it's like voting in an election in the middle of a War Zone?
Ian Stephenson, Toronto, Canada
In response to both Lt. Suit's words as well as the comments of most that followed, I just wanted to point out that most of the press coverage in and about Iraq is based on the magnitude of the event and not whether the event is good or bad. If a person like Lt Suits hands out mudboots to kids on the same day that 20 people are killed in an explosion, I wouldn't expect to see much coverage about the kids.
Josh, Columbus, Ohio, USA
To Bryan Suits: I salute you and your mates for your seemingly thankless job. The press is a propaganda machine and must be taken as such. The posing of people and the (sometimes)fabrication of events is made for sales and ratings. There are true journalists out there, filming the truth, not posing people. I wish they were there beside you that day passing out the boots, showing the compassion, showing that not everyone is there to do harm. Thank you and all of the men and women fighting for the Iraqis. Stay safe.
Ernest Gollan Jr, Vienna, United States
Terry (from Georgia) hit the nail on the head. Most just are thinking of Iraq as an American project and a trophy to eventually display and do not care about Iraqis at all. We think "elections" is a magic word - but what would an election in the US be like for us if every candidate was simply aspiring middle management for some or other foreign power? Would we call that a bright future for freedom?
Omar, Edinburg, TX, USA
My son is going back to Iraq to serve. Do I wish he were staying home and safe? Do we argue about our role in helping people have freedom of choice without fear of reprisal? Yes. There are no simple answers. What I do know is that he will come home when things are more stable - yet to be defined. As we prepared for his second deployment, we met many soldiers who just returned. Without hesitation, all spoke highly of the Iraqi people, their courage, conviction and graciousness. Best to all as you struggle to form a representative government, something that will take time and perseverance.
Linda, Mineral, Virginia, USA
Good luck to all people who have the courage to vote. It's courage that you need in the face of adversity and courage that will pull Iraq from dark, violent times into paradise and light. Do not be afraid of using your own great power in voting. Democracy always works, eventually, but like anything man-made, you will evolve your own version of it to suit your own peoples needs once foreign powers withdraw from your borders. The future's bright for Iraq, I feel deeply positive for you all and hope that sense comes to those who look to cause grief for whatever reasons.
Jonny Tooze, Guildford, UK
When the people in Iraq have their election on Sunday there will definitely be problems. But the world should realise that the real significance of the election is not for the immediate future but for the long term. This is significant for the generations that follow. The Iraqis who vote on Sunday are pioneers for future generations.
Colin Baker, Dayton, Ohio, USA
I hope for all the best for the forthcoming election for the people of Iraq. This kind of killing of innocent people should stop. Although at present there are many hindrances the people of Iraq should cross their fingers. There is always a sunny day after a cloudy day and for the leaders who stand up on the day, please play your part for the betterment of all. God bless all six of those writing here.
Salen Singh, Suva, Fiji Islands
I am inspired by the courage of these people to take control of their country which was under siege by such a brutal regime, which my country supported for so many years, and its not something we are proud of. I commend these people and hope that the democratic values come forth. However, we must teach the world that democracy is not a pure democracy. The majority can allow their hopes to be put into effect by the vote. Furthermore, Iraqis must know that if they have religious principles that cannot be violated, this can be incorporated into their governmental system.
Michael, Troy, Michigan, USA
I, too, pray for the swift recovery of the Iraqi nation and her people. I want to mention that in Oregon, USA, we vote by mail, so that means no voters massing in vulnerable polling stations. I don't know what the state of your postal system is but I thought I'd share the idea.
Bruce, Portland, Oregon, USA
My family is mixed, Sunni, Shia and Kurdish. I have asked Iraqis abroad and those inside Iraq who they would vote for and most of them said that they would vote for the best one. If somebody is a Shia, you wouldn't always expect them to vote for a Shia group, they can vote for anyone they wish. I advise all Iraqis to vote in elections. This includes Iraqis abroad and Iraqis in Iraq. A vote is the strongest weapon against militants. Everyone hopes for a peaceful Iraq.
Sami Ibrahim, London, UK
Why do we only hear about the awful events in Iraq via AP, CBC, BBC and all the news services, and not a word of praise for the Afghanistan success? Which is a good model for the Iraq democratic conversion. Could it be that good news and the wrong president of this country make for bad journalism reporting their colleagues would frown upon? The ex-Iraqis who are now voting around the world know the truth - that someone has to confront the dictatorships of the Middle East and are thankful that courageous Mr Bush has done the thankless job. This time the people will prevail in Iraq.
Jim Miller, Vista, CA USA
It is great that the BBC is providing a voice for those inside Iraq to reflect upon the events leading to their historic vote. It is too bad that the American media is not doing a similar job and focusing so much on only the problems in Iraq. I commend those Iraqis that are standing for this election by putting the good of their future ahead of their personal security. The elections will mark one more step on the path of a better Iraq, where minority groups will hopefully never face oppression again.
Keith, Pittsburgh, PA USA
In the days ahead, it is my wish and that of millions in the USA, that Iraq begin the long and difficult process towards democracy by voting this coming week. May each of you find the courage to take this monumental first step - without knowing its outcome but with hope for better times for your country and your fellow countrymen. In the years ahead, looking back to this time, I hope that you will be counted with those who helped transform Iraq into a great country that won out over tyranny and injustice.
Diana Belliveau, Santa Cruz, USA, Santa Cruz, USA
Just a quick comment directed at Zeina. I wish you all the best in the up-coming elections, your courage, if imitated by others, will bring Iraq out of the situation it is currently in.
Ali al-Saffar, London, England
To John Uri, Sydney, Australia: Who told you that Shia are not retaliating against Sunni? There is no fear of a civil war in Iraq because it is already happening. This election is taking far more media coverage than it deserves. America is only interested in a democracy (or any form of it) that will only bring its collaborators to power. What's the point of running an election if it is already known who the winners are?. I personally - as a Sunni - don't mind Shia leaders provided they are loyal to Iraq and not to America or Iran. I can't see any like that, though.
That is the beauty of first elections in newly democratic countries - look at election in Afghanistan or the Palestinian election. People who have never experienced democracy want democracy. In the US, we are lucky to see half of the electorate go to the polls. I think Iraqis will go to the polls even if they don't know whom the candidates are. Good choice, bad choice - they won't care. It is their choice.
Ian, Austin, Texas, USA
I salute you brave Tariq al-Ani. Today, I live in a peaceful and very prosperous Malaysia. That wasn't so when I was growing up in the 1960s. In Sarawak, where I lived, my father and many others of like mind was negotiating with the British for a free and independent nation. We had a Communist insurgency then and the British troops were helping us fight it. We faced house to house searches by British soldiers and I remember we doubted our neighbours their loyalty to the new order. The Communist and others were opposed to the ordinary man having a vote and of a government that was democratic. It was a struggle over ideology. But the people won and the nation of Malaysia, a successful, prosperous and most importantly a popularly elected Government in charge is evident for the whole world to see. So do not give in, your Children needs your courage to look back on to with pride.
Ranen Bhattacharyya, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Iraqi citizens deserve a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The only way they will get it is by voting. Democracy will be won by the vote, not by the bomb. Keep your eyes open and report all suspicious activities to the proper authorities. Vote, vote, vote!
Richard Brooks, Kennett Square, USA
These logs provide a unique window to the hearts and minds of people in Iraq. It seems Iraq has long been cursed with misfortune: Saddam's tyranny, Iran-Iraq War, Invasion of Kuwait, 1st Gulf War, 12 years of sanctions, 2nd Gulf War, occupation, insurgency, terrorism, lack of basic necessities, fear, and so on. But the Baathists must sooner or later understand they are destroying their own country and that dialogue with other Iraqis is the way forward. Good luck to Iraqis for the elections and beyond.
Rajesh Arya, Berlin, Germany
I commend the BBC for publishing a diverse and honest picture of daily life in Iraq leading up to the elections. I think it reinforces the notion that people in Iraq would like fair government but right now they need security, employment, and the fulfilment of their basic needs. A puppet "democracy" doesn't mean much of anything to someone who cannot leave their home to work or pursue an education. My hopes are with those in Iraq who fear for their lives daily and struggle to make ends meet. It remains to be seen if the imposition of "democratic rule" will solve their desperate situation.
Jane, Sydney, Australia
I cannot express how much it means to read about everyday life in Iraq from people who are living through what is unimaginable to most of us. I do a lot of election work on the state and national level (not for the party currently in power) I have never been as embarrassed about our terrible voting turnouts as I have been reading these accounts. God bless each and very one of you.
Hank Brown, Wethersfield, Connecticut, USA
In an election where the names of the candidates are not published and the election sites are not yet known it is the words of Tariq al-Ani's son who said "How do I elect Allawi? by shooting him?" that should resonate in our mind so that we see how the elections are not exactly the glorified success that the US media consistently portrays. I really wish that non-Iraqi people would stop being so uselessly enthusiastic and encourage people to be courageous and vote. Would they themselves risk dying and leaving their families to toil in the unstable environment to vote in an election? My prayers are with the people of Iraq.
Anca Tutuianu, Toronto, Canada
Thank you for publishing these logs, BBC. We incessantly hear about how terribly wrong the war is here, but reading these logs are a good reminder of why freedom and democracy are so vital. My prayers go out to Tariq al-Ani and his fellow countrymen and women, and to all of the troops risking their lives to give this incredible country a chance at democracy.
Marina Wolf, Denver, United States
As an Iraqi-American, of Assyrian heritage, I applaud and thank the brave Iraqi people for their stand against tyranny and total support for democracy and rule of law. Future generations will look back at this period in time and thank the US/UK for their stand in Iraq against evil.
Mazin E, USA
Why are there no loggers from the Kurdistan region? They would have been more fun as the security there is better.
Timsa, London, UK
I'm in Iraq just now doing a six-week tour and already things are hotting up. The streets are very busy with crowds of people and feuds and fights are breaking out through out the city of Basra. Here the families and civilians don't know what way to take us - whether we are friendly or an enemy.
Anon, Glasgow, Scotland
The Iraqi people are caught between the world's superpower and the Arab world. This struggle will last for years and no one can determine the outcome now. Put your family first in all that you do and say! Be respectful to the soldiers on each side. Try to be invisible as much as you can until the outcome is clearer. Each side wants you to be on their side but both sides have made it clear that civilians are expendable. Pray for God's protection.
Terry, Athens, Georgia, USA
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