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 sixth instalment, one of the candidates in the election tells of her excitement at voting, a US worker in northern Iraq watches voting, one man tells us why he didn't vote and another about calling his friends to encourage them to go to the polls.
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TODAY I VOTED!
Posted by Zeina election candidate, Baghdad, 30 January
Today I went and voted! I got up early, went out at 10am with my family and walked to the polling station about 10 minutes from my home. There were many people walking in the street, everyone was running around smiling and happy, it was just like a feast day.
We queued for about 10 minutes and they searched all of us, they even went through my handbag. Then I went in and voted and waited for my family to vote too. Everyone is so excited. We heard many bombs this morning but we didn't care because we have to use our right to vote. So many people were afraid to go this morning, but now it seems in the afternoon that more people have voted.
I am so happy, so glad. Later this afternoon we will meet up with our friends for a celebration. We will have a meal, drink tea and eat cake. Then we will have to head back home because of the 7pm curfew. I spoke to relatives of mine in Najaf and they said people there had voted and that everything was fine. They too were so happy.
If we are elected then I will go to my party offices in a few days and they will decide what we should do. I won't find out if I have won for two or three days. I don't think we shall win because we didn't have many posters or people handing out our papers in the street - so very few people really knew about us. It was just not safe to campaign. But it doesn't matter. Today is a great day.
NOBODY AROUND HERE VOTED
Posted by Tariq al-Ani law student, Hit, 30 January
The city is completely empty today, all you see are the US troops patrolling. There have been some small clashes, but nothing major. At least the water and power has been good today. The atmosphere is very edgy - no-one can guess what's going to happen.
I did not vote. Nobody did around here did, despite the leaflets dropped by airplanes encouraging us to do so. Last night and this morning I stayed at my relative's home. Yesterday my wife was afraid because we could hear many vehicles going past where we were, but they didn't seem to cause any trouble and after it went quiet she managed to relax.
I did not vote for many reasons. The most obvious is simply security - no-one went to the polling station, it was too dangerous. Also, we are not used to this. In the past it was all propaganda, now we have a new process and people here are just not used to it. Iraqis don't know what to do. Also the candidates... I admire them for having the courage to stand, but they don't seem to have any real policies or programmes for the future. I've had no communication with anyone because of the curfew so I haven't spoken about it with any of my friends, although we've watched a lot of it on TV. I suppose tomorrow we can all sit down and talk about it. It should be interesting!
For the future... personally I think that half a loaf is better than none as the British would say. We have no option at the moment here - the situation is so out of control that we must adapt to what is happening. It may be an important day for Iraq, but we'll see. I hope it is significant, it's a chance to move from something unilateral - which we had for so many years - to something multilateral.
We want a legitimate government that will take care of Iraq. We want it to be an open government that creates good relationships with others and ensures our security and prosperity. Surely that is a natural right for any human being?
EVERYBODY AT THE POLLING STATION WAS SMILING
Posted by Louay al-Tahan Iraqi businessman, Baghdad, 30 January
We were quite worried early in the morning, so we decided to wait till things were clearer. We kept close watch on the TV and called friends and relatives. We heard some explosions but not as loud as they usually sound. Finally at around 11:00 local time we decided that it was safe enough to try to vote.
The polling station is about 200m from where I live in the Mansoor district of Baghdad, so we walked there and it was amazing. The turnout was high. All our neighbours and friends were there. We were welcomed by a group of election officials, and then searched very closely. Everybody was smiling and happy, even the security people - something we are not used to here in Iraq. All the people leaving the polling station were so pleased showing off their finger marked with indelible ink. We went in, another group of officials checked our ID cards against the list of registered voters.
A ballot paper was handed to us. We waited in line for an empty voting booth. I made my selection along with my wife and then put them in the ballot boxes. It was great no-one interfered or imposed their opinion on any one. The officials were very helpful. The helped some elderly people inside, gave general instructions on how to use the ballot papers. When we left the station people were congratulating each other.
In all, I think it has been a great success... as far as I can see transparent and not biased in any way. During the whole process I didn't see any Americans in the area. Afterwards we took loads of photos with friends and family. I called friends in other parts of town to congratulate them or to encourage them to vote.
Later in the afternoon, at about 1600, it felt so safe and quite, I took my wife and two daughters for a walk. This is something we haven't done for quite a while. We walked by two busy polling stations. It was amazing people we don't know were asking us if we had voted, and congratulating us on doing so.
I VOTED BUT I MISSED THE TENNIS FINAL
Posted by Youssef Iraqi doctor, Basra, 30 January
Well, thank God the elections went ahead without big disturbances. We heard two explosions early this morning. I heard later that these particular attacks caused no injuries at all. And yes, I did manage to go and actually vote for the list I thought was the best, but I had to walk a total of 10km on foot because of the ban imposed on all cars other than police cars and ambulances. It took me about three and a half hours to do this so I missed the last two sets of the final of the Australian Open tennis. I am pleased Safin won. I'm a great fan of his.
Despite the tiresome trip, I think it was worth every step to share in this process. There were a lot of checkpoints all through the way and we were checked with a metal detector before getting into the hall where we did the actual paper work. It was really well organised and I think the tough security measures - as annoying as they were - contributed to the relatively high turn out. Almost everyone I know voted.
Last night, just after midnight, loudspeakers of the mosques called on people not to use the tap water because it had been contaminated by saboteurs. To tell you the truth, it caused a wave of panic throughout the city and my phone kept ringing as friends were spreading the news to each other.
Then, around 02:00 this morning, police cars started patrolling the city telling everyone through loud speakers, that it was all a rumour and that there was nothing wrong with tap water. Everyone remained cautious, though, but not a single case of any sort of poisoning was registered all through Basra so I guess it was just paranoia.
IT'S VERY QUIET... WHICH IS REALLY WEIRD
Posted by Susan American aid worker, northern Iraq, 30 January
Thankfully nothing bad has happened where I am today. On Friday, there were two explosions here in the evening, about 10 minutes apart. They happened roughly the same place, not far from the city's main market place. The first was in a trash container, the second under a pile of sand. Four people were injured, none killed.
My friends in the city told me there was a car with Baghdad number plates parked near their house. They called police, who came and questioned the driver. He wouldn't say where he was from. After that, apparently the driver was taken into custody and TNT was found in the car.
Today it has been really quiet where I am because of the traffic ban. Last night they were still allowing traffic into the main city until the late evening. There are now lots of concrete barriers up and many roads have been blocked off. I went out around 6pm and there were still people milling about.
From the roof of my house, through the mist, I can see one of the polling stations. There are local armed guards stationed on the roofs around it, keeping an eye on things. There aren't many long lines of voters. I'd say it was more of a steady stream. People seem normal, certainly no-one is looking scared or running around, it's just very quiet - which is a little weird. If they're not voting I guess people are mostly staying at home.
From what I can tell, speaking to local friends here, people believe that voting will help them. They say it will still be a struggle, but the Kurds in general seem positive about it. They don't expect miracles, in fact some are quite cynical about the choices they have on the ballot papers. One friend told me she was voting for one of the main Kurdish parties [Northern Alliance] because she believes this will give her people more power. The more power the parties have the greater the chance of more independence, she told me.
These are some of the comments we have received so far about this log.
Some of the comments refer to previous logs:
These are some of the comments we have received so far about this log.
It was a turning point for Iraq and for Iraqis, I admire the brave people who went to polling stations and cast their vote for their future. But there are a lot of things to be done by the people of Iraq.
Dr. Najibullah, Kabul, Afghanistan
I stayed up until 0400 to watch the Iraqi vote on TV. I was truly moved to tears when I saw the joy and pride on the Iraqi faces as they voted for the first time. The Iraqi people have been through so much before and after the invasion of Iraq. So many lives have been lost and so much destruction has taken place to get to the day where the people of Iraq could finally choose the type of government that they want. It seems that we here in America take the right to vote for granted. Today is a reminder of the price that is paid to have democracy. Congratulations to the people of Iraq and may God bless all of you and your country.
Greg , Redmond, Washington, USA
I whole heartedly empathize how Tariq Al Ani is feeling as he does not know what to expect next. Yes it is true that a journey of million miles must begin with a single step but when there is so much chaos and lawlessness, it gives us very little reason to be optimistic. We too are facing a similar situation out here as the crisis between government forces and Maoist rebels deepens - though not in the scale as in Iraq - and majority of the population are so much insecure about their future, so I am sure the majority of the people in Iraq are feeling the same way. To say the least all we can do is hope for the best and that's all we have.
Prashant Pradhan, Kathmandu, Nepal.
It is wonderful to hear from Iraqis; our media filters news and it is difficult to know whether or not we are hearing the truth. Every day there are more people killed, Americans and Iraqis, but we hear only the body count for Americans. Can someone tell me how many Iraqis have died since the invasion?
Melanie Faith, Amherst, MA, US
I honestly believe that the whole world is on the side of the Iraqi people. Everyone wants to fight for you (each in their own way). That includes Europeans, Asians, Africans, Americans, Arabs, Iranians, Russians, Pacific Islanders and whoever else you care to mention on these boards. Whether people opposed or supported the war, they honestly want to see the Iraqi people win. It's only through your vote we will know what you want.
I am amazed at the courage of the Iraqis who are going out to vote at this time. Here in the West we talk and vote according to our wishes. Never do we have to look over our shoulders when we express an opinion. We have almost total security of person. Yet so many of us take these rights for granted and do not even bother to vote at election time. Here in Iraq we have a people who are used only to oppression, yet they put their lives on the line to vote. I can only applaud their bravery, and pray that a new and democratic government will bring them the happiness and security which the sacrifices of coalition troops have paid for.
Clive Hickson, Winnipeg, Canada
I read an article where one Iraqi described election day as "a wedding for all of Iraq". It's very encouraging to see so many brave the danger to exercise their rights. I also understand those who could not put themselves in danger, in the most dangerous cities such as Hit. Democracy is not supposed to be a suicide pact. Those people will have to allow their fellow citizens to start the process of representative government for them, this time. Put aside the religious differences for now, today you are all Iraqis. Democracy is no respecter of religion. Congratulations on your newfound freedom.
Faye, El Paso, TX, USA
It is sobering to think that a car with TNT could be parked outside my home. I am glad there is a system to alert police; it seems to work well to prevent these acts. I only hope all those in Iraq have access to communication. The more, the better. I know there are still mistakes made by the authorities, and hopefully in time it will be better. I thank BBC for setting this journal up. It is great to hear from Iraqis this way, as it feels very close and personal. Good luck to all of you.
Louis Di Meglio, Brooklyn, NY USA
Dr Youssef, I am praying for you and your family. Sometimes I believe so strongly that the American government will do what is right and fair for the brave people of Iraq, while other times I truly wonder where the sense is in all of this. How is your family? How are your children doing through all of this? What does your wife think about the elections? I cannot even imagine what you are living through. I admire you and the other brave citizens of Iraq and I encourage you to vote. It is your right to vote and to elect whoever you want to lead you. Once again, know that my prayers are with you and your family.
Crystal Young, Los Angeles, USA
I have opposed the Iraq war from the outset. Despite that, I woke up early to search the news for reports on the voter turnout and progress on voting. It may be the first time that Bush and I have hoped for the same thing. Let's hope that the estimates of voter turnout are not overly optimistic. But having said that, it's hard not to feel optimism for Iraq's future and awe at the bravery of people who would risk their lives in order to vote. I'm also struck that the honour and courage of a people is far more effective in staring down the face of terrorism than any "war on terror" we've been able to muster.
Pat, Red Bank, NJ USA
This comment is for Mr. Tariq al-Ani. Hi Tariq and hi to your wife and children. Your description of relaxing in the desert was well-written. I'm here in Brooklyn where the neighbour next door is scraping at the snow with his shovel! I hope your whole family will be blessed with peace and safety and I admire you and your family for staying happy in spite of all that's so hard for you now.
Kim Worthy, Brooklyn, New York
Thanks BBC for giving un-edited voice to the people living behind the headlines. And to everyone involved in the elections this weekend - a huge good luck. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Kiki Stevens, Minneapolis, USA
So many can not comprehend the threats people are facing when going to the polls. Honestly, would you send your family to vote knowing it is a life or death situation and that they would not come back tomorrow? I believe in the elections and have voted. The faith of the Iraqi people has been tested many times and some are prepared to sacrifice their life for the vote and a better future for their people.
Husain, Baghdad, Iraq
I think the national election in Iraq is very important to the Iraqi population. I hope all areas of the country will be represented despite hardships the voters will be going through. As I read your article today on the positive Kurdish response to the election and for the high hopes they have for a new Iraq it confirms my belief there is an excellent chance for Iraq people to be better off tomorrow than yesterday. I encourage everyone that is eligible to vote and then support the government that is elected.
Stephen Segall, United States
As in my own country, South Africa, we see the potential for a new, dynamic and free country of citizens who put the interests of the common good above their own separatist and racist tendencies. As long as we can stop George Bush from making pronouncements about 'crusades' and the like, there is a chance that Iraqis see this as a historic moment for themselves. Let love and peace triumph over hate, fear and despair.
Andy Lawrence, United Arab Emirates
I am an Iraqi living in the US. I watch the news and I can't quit thinking of what's going on in my country. I believe that a bright future for Iraq requires great efforts and sacrifices, and today, the election day, is the time to show those sacrifices by going to vote no matter what! Peace be upon everyone that is going to vote.
Mohammed, Western New York, USA
For children of Iraqi exiles, the most important events in our lives took place before we were even born. Today, on the first day of out-of-country voting, this is no longer true. As an Iraqi-American born and raised in the US, I plan to vote in the OCV program today. I have never been to Iraq, but both my parents are Iraqi and it has always been the basis of my identity. I am proud to vote and be a part of the future or Iraq. I have tremendous admiration for the election log contributors who are brave enough to risk their lives to fight a state of perpetual inconsequence.
Babylonia Marcus, Washington, DC, USA
It's time for the rest of the world to get behind this project to get Iraq back on its feet. Regardless of past disagreement on the war - what alternative is there?; I think its a shame that much of the passion on the issue of Iraq is spent on 'disagreeing' with America and arguing about the questionable justification of the war and not on unequivocally condemning the atrocities being committed by the insurgents.
Olawande Kasumu, Lagos, Nigeria
To Ian Stephenson: You said North American, that would include you, since you are from Canada. Blissful is not what most people have in mind when it comes to Iraq. The fact that they are able to vote is somewhat of a miracle all by itself, isn't it? Whether it is in the middle of the "War Zone" (as you put it) or not. How many of these people are thankful they can vote at all? How many died for one person to vote? If you had been bound up for 50 years and suddenly freedom was at your door, wouldn't you pay the price, no matter what the cost?
Tez, St Louis, MO US
I'd like to answer Ian who posted earlier. Voting in the middle of a war zone is like going out in the morning to college or work place and facing the prospect of a suicide bomber in the way (frightening but has to be done. As someone said on this site, voting is voting against violence, not particularly for a certain party or group of persons, but against intimidations by certain people. I'm no idealist and I sure hope to survive this period and its aftermath, but I do know that by voting I would tell those certain people that I don't like their way of thinking and that they don't speak for the rest of the Sunnis(which I am one of.
Mays, Baghdad, Iraq
Just want to say to all Iraqis out there who may be reading this - good luck for this weekend! I hope that, despite the probable violence in some areas, the election progresses Iraq and you all go a little further down the road to peace, stability and a good life. The "north American ideals" a Canadian contributor derided on this page, are not just north American but global desires for peace, justice and a good life for all our families, friends and neighbours. That's something worth voting for!
Rachelle, London, UK
The elections will not be a magic bullet to fix all the problems in Iraq, but it is a start whether they are dodging bullets and bombers or not. To hear Iraqi nationals who live outside the 'death triangle' describe how they feel about the vote is optimistic, blissful, and hopeful. The troublemakers are angry that they are losing their control, so they create havoc and murder as a form of social control through fear. I seriously doubt the elections will be legitimate since so many are being used as pawns in the game of fear, but in the long run I have faith in the Iraqi people to show the rest of the Middle East how good it can be to have that rare freedom of a constitution protecting their basic human rights.
Stephanie Hataway, Texas, USA
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