The BBC News website's Iraq election log gathers a range of accounts from people inside Iraq about their day-to-day lives.
In our eighth instalment, we hear that it's relatively quiet in Baghdad, a man explains the election to his kids, a US soldier looks forward to returning home and a woman helps her parents to vote.
You can bookmark this page and come back to read the latest posts each day.
THE WHOLE EXERCISE HAS REMOVED SOME OF THE FEAR
Posted by Louay al-Tahan Iraqi businessman, Baghdad, 1 February
Today in Baghdad we are all fine and relaxed. Yesterday was a very quiet day. In the afternoon after the lifting of the curfew I went shopping. Everybody seemed to be happy with the way things had gone.
I feel that this whole voting exercise has removed some of the fear people had inside them. People seem stronger and more prepared to face the future. Some people were talking about not letting anyone take control of their lives anymore.
I felt this within my family too. They asked to go for a walk after we had our lunch. It looks like we are going to make a habit out of it. People in the neighbourhood have started to analyse things and speculate on the formation of the government. Others are more interested in the constitution and what is needed to cover the needs of all sectors of Iraqi society.
But for now, back to business. I had to cross over to the other side of Baghdad. The traffic was very heavy as usual, but in terms of violence it's still very quiet - I haven't heard any explosions. Long may it last.
AN ELECTION IS LIKE SHOPPING FOR THE ITEM YOU THINK BEST
Posted by Tariq Iraqi law student, Hit, 1 February
Monday, thank God, was quiet with no fighting. The weather was good, so I took my kids out to some trees near where we are staying so they can run around for a while. On Sunday afternoon, unfortunately, there were some quite bad clashes between the insurgents and the US troops so they were quite scared. Strangely, it was after sunset that evening that everything went quiet.
I've been helping my children understand the elections. They have been glued to the TV when there is electricity. My relatives and I can help them with information about the elections. I was trying to explain to them how an election means you "select" someone, like going into a shop and choosing the item which you think is best for you. By making it this simple I think they understood.
The kids think it's a good thing to have an election. My daughter did ask me if I had voted. I told her that it wasn't safe. It's not just the insurgents, it's the US troops too - they have been nervous recently so they tend to fire at random. I can't explain to her all the other reasons.
Yesterday was the 40th day we have stayed overnight away from home and with relatives. We were going to try to get back to our home but because the curfew is still in place and there are few people around, we decided to wait another few nights. God willing, soon we will be able to go home.
WE ARE GRATEFUL FOR IRAQI BRAVERY - IT'S OUR TICKET HOME
Posted by Lt Bryan Suits US soldier, Baghdad, 1 February
It was slow to start, but it finished like a carnival everywhere I looked. I was proud to stand between Iraqis and the men who would deny them freedom. It was an exhausting four-day event for me and my men, but they slowly understood how monumental these days would be in the future.
Two brothers, both in their late 70s, drove to the polls to cast the first vote in their lives. Civilian vehicles weren't allowed on the road for 24 hours, but the polls were six kilometres away. If they couldn't drive they couldn't vote. As an American, it was an easy choice for me to make. They voted.
An hour later they stopped us as we patrolled, and they thanked us profusely. Their sons and grandsons also joined in with an impromptu circle dance called a "dabka". One of the men said: "God sent you to give us freedom." My Iraqi translator, who's a practised cynic, became silent and looked away. The man put his hand on my American flag patch and then kissed his hand. I pulled the flag from its Velcro and handed it to him. My translator took a picture as I started to choke up. My translator pulled his hat down to his eyes and turned around. He wanted to appear unmoved, but was failing badly.
The Iraqi police and army seemed to grow more confident as the day went on. This was definitely their show and they received the thanks and congratulations from their people. That was great to see. The collection of the ballot boxes was a celebration and the atmosphere continued on Monday morning. The police and Iraqi Army have won their first battle and they have new credibility.
I'm leaving Iraq in three weeks and I'll start the rest of my life as a newly married man. My wife is a police officer and an unapologetic American idealist as well. Luckily, I never have to worry whether this year was worth it. My men and I are grateful to the Iraqi people for their bravery. It's our ticket home.
WE SHALL SEE WHAT ALL THIS BRINGS
Posted by Nancy Kurdish Iraqi medical worker, northern Iraq, 1 February
Finally I can tell you about the elections. I voted on Sunday. The night before, we stayed in and watched television all about the elections, then the next day at around 0700 local time I left with my father and mother to walk to the polling station.
Where we are, the area was divided in to districts, or sectors, each of which had a polling station so people could easily get to the one closest to their home. I got there about 0900 local time with my parents.
As we went to go in they searched us all, checked our mobile phones and wouldn't let us take them in, checked for anything we were carrying which could have been suspicious. The only thing we were allowed to take into the station with us was our identity card.
My parents cannot read or write so the officials allowed me to help them cast their vote. Then we just left the centre and headed back home. On Sunday evening and on Monday things were very quiet - it was a national holiday so people mostly stayed at home. Today finally we could get back to work, I walked in this morning. It felt good to vote, but we shall see what it all brings.
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.
I have been against the invasion from the start, but always for the Iraqi people. I have been praying for the Iraqis to show the courage I know they have and to be counted. The American public will not let our goverment take over your country - if Bush doesn't give way to your elected officials; we will elect someone who will the next time. I have many Arab friends here and we are overjoyed at the result of the turn-out. Long live Iraq and may this be the first step to your freedom.
Lila Kendall, Charlotte, NC, USA
Though I believe strongly that force is never the way to bring about democracy, still I watched all the many, many Iraqis walking quietly - some for long, long distances - to cast their vote and I wept. I sincerely hope and pray that this will be the beginning of the end of the occupation and that all of you Iraqis will soon have better lives.
RM, Columbus, Ohio, USA
Congratulations and good luck to you and your countrymen. I truly hope that this is the beginning of a new era of self-rule and peace for you, though I know the road ahead will be difficult. Thank you so much for sharing your lives and thoughts with us. I will be taking some of your entries to share with the children in our independent-study group. Your words will help bring the situation to life for them.
Kristine Wyatt, Pacific Palisades, CA, USA
I was very much against the war in Iraq and the occupation by American troops. I have felt embarrassed by the arrogance of the American government, but today, for the first time, I feel hopeful for the future of the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people have taken the important and difficult steps toward freedom. I salute their bravery and pray for their peaceful, prosperous future, as in the end, we are all connected on this planet.
Katherine Webster, Falmouth, MA,US
Having already completed my first tour in Iraq and now beginning my second, days like this make you so proud to be a soldier that many in my detachment literally teared up (myself included). To all of our Iraqi brothers that took part in the elections, my most heartfelt congratulations are to you. Despite the risks to your own personal safety, or in some cases, long walks on foot, you still had the courage to stand defiantly in the face of the cowards that would seek to sabotage your democratic process. To see a new democracy take root from the ground level is an amazing sight. The turnout was far higher than I expected and even during patrols the looks on the faces of the citizens that I saw leaving the voting stations made all the sacrifices made by my fellow Marines and our Iraqi brothers in arms that much more justified.
SSGT Derrick Slater [US Marine Corps], Fairfax, Virginia, USA/Iraq
As an Iraqi myself I was delighted to see that the elections were quite successful in Iraq. I was opposed to the war and still am against the occupation as I believe that you don't kill innocent people and destroy the infrastructure of a country in the name of 'democracy'. The whole Iraq issue is complex but there were other better alternatives than this war. However I do support the elections as this hopefully will give the Iraqis a true voice and control over how they can rule their country.
Zahra, London, England
I find the Iraqi people's comments very interesting on this subject, but I want to know more... I want to know what the younger generation in Iraq think about all this. It appears that everyone you've interviewed is 35 or older and fairly well educated. Why aren't there any reports from younger people in their 20's? Did they not vote? Are they unwilling to comment?
Brenda Klein, Singapore
To all Iraqis, congratulations and God bless. From the South Pacific we wish you peace and freedom. May you achieve with God's help what you strive for. My son served six months in your country in Ramadi and has returned in December last with fond memories of a proud people.
Kilifi Mafile'o, Nuku'alofa, Tonga
It is a joy to read Youssef's intelligent and heartfelt appreciation of the Iraqi election. But I beg to differ when he says "the Americans and British didn't come here just to bring democracy and go home". That is precisely what the Allies did do. Despite the wave of cynicism and hopeless criticisms that come through particularly from British contributors to this site, the desire for a democratic Iraq is precisely what the Americans and British set out to achieve. We will bring home our dead, and pay the cost, and I am sure get no thanks from any quarter. Such is life. However as a British citizen it brings me joy to read Youssef's words.
Myles Ogilvie, London, UK
I am an Iraqi who voted in London at Wembley. We had a carnival atmosphere despite worrying about our people back home. It is just the beginning of a democratic Iraq. Our people, with the help of our allies, will not allow the insurgents to win.
Amad Purtow, St Albans, Herts
I just want to express my happiness that the elections went forward, despite the threats of insurgents who were against them taking place at all. Like Eric, from California, I was also opposed to the invasion of Iraq from the beginning. However, now that we're there we can't just pull out at the drop of a hat and leave Iraq with no government. I hope that the new government is a good one. I look forward to hearing better news about Iraq in the coming months. Hopefully we will be able to pull out soon, knowing that we leave behind a safer country. I know we have a long way to go, but I have faith that the new government will do a great job. Congratulations to all the Iraqis who voted. I hope that conditions only get better from here.
Michelle Dunlap, Ewing, NJ, US
Congratulations on your first free elections! God bless all who participated in this first step on the road to a free and democratic Iraq. My son was an infantry soldier in Tikrit for a year and the future of Iraq remains close to our hearts.
Sarolta Green, Minden, NV, USA
This sure is an encouraging sign - though not everybody voted; at least the we can now see a new Iraq in the making. It's no smooth ride but I'm sure with time things with work out for the better. The people will need to experience the difference to know the benefits.
Ken, Hong Kong
First off, to all the Iraqis who have voted, I want to say God bless and thank you. As a soldier who is on my way home from Iraq, I wondered for months about how the whole thing in Iraq would end. I worked with some Iraqis on my base from time to time and even delivered supplies to a small school once. Over time, I spoke to some of the Iraqis working with us and learned that they were hopeful about the future of their country. (I worked with both Kurds and Shia, no Sunnis that I know of). I am now amazed to see the resolve of the whole country. When I went home on R&R halfway through my tour, people would ask me what I though about the situation over there. I told them the Iraqi people want their lives in their own hands. Well, you have all shown the whole world how true that is.
Eric Hewett, US military base, Kuwait
To all, I'm very happy as an Iraqi live in Canada and really proud about all Iraqis who went out and voted despite all danger. I and my wife went last Friday and voted here in Toronto. This is a historical moment in Iraq's history. I was praying to God last night to enable all Iraqis to go out and vote.
Rashid Al-Saffar, Ajax, Ontario, Canada
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