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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 October 2005, 18:06 GMT 19:06 UK
Iraq constitution: Voters speak
Elderly Iraqi man and woman read copies of constitution
Some Sunnis have called for a boycott of the constitution
Iraqis have gone to the polls to cast their votes on whether to accept the country's proposed constitution.

Violence increased ahead of the vote and some of the main Sunni parties said they would boycott proceedings or vote against the document.

Before the vote, the BBC News website asked five Iraqis for their thoughts on how their country will be shaped and how religious differences are affecting the country. Some gave assumed names for security reasons.

"Ban", engineer, Baghdad

"Youssef", doctor, Basra

"Faris", student, Basra

"Lidra", engineer, Baghdad

Waria, businessman, Kirkuk

Ban, 30-year-old Shia engineer from Baghdad

I intend to vote on Saturday. The vote is a good thing for Iraq and the first time that Iraqis have been able to participate in such a process.

Although the people in my neighbourhood are positive about the constitution and the political process, they do not support federalism

Many people want to vote and participate in the political process, and indeed support the draft constitution, but they fear reprisals and violence at the polling stations.

I'm afraid that there will be problems whatever the result of the referendum.

I think the violence is likely to continue for a long time, but I don't know whether there will be civil war.

Where I live is relatively peaceful, but it is becoming more dangerous.

Violence is being brought into Baghdad by people from outside the region - they want to transfer it to here because it is calm and also a nice place to live.

Although the people in my neighbourhood are positive about the constitution and the political process, they do not support federalism.

Many don't understand the concept or the specific clauses in the draft constitution and are likely to remain against it for a long time.

Unfortunately, I think bad things are likely to continue. The referendum and resulting developments will certainly affect me and the way I live my life.

Youssef, doctor from Basra, Sunni

I am going to vote "yes". Although I'm not convinced by the constitution itself, we have to start somewhere.

I am against dividing Iraq in any way... there are people who would like to have federalism, but for their own benefit
Most educated people here are almost embarrassed to take part. We're not going to vote blindly.

We don't care who will take power, the main objective is to have a country where law and order is the guiding force.

And I don't think this will happen for a few years.

I think we will have different alliances who will not work together, not work jointly

The federalism issue is also a problem. I am against dividing Iraq in any way. It would be very detrimental for any country, especially one trying to rise out of a devastating few decades.

There are people who would like to have federalism, but for their own benefit. People who truly love Iraq wouldn't look for division.

I am Sunni, but I think the Sunni parties are not negotiating for an agreement. They say they are negotiating for Iraqis, but they are looking out for their own interests.

I think the Iraqi Islamic party is backing the constitution because they were given certain private concessions for their own benefit.

Iraq is a big cake and everyone wants a slice.

I don't think it will be rejected and even if it was I don't think anything would happen.

Where I am, in the south, Iraqis are very closely knit. It is more complicated than people think.

There is lots of intermarriage. I am Sunni and my wife is Shia.

Still, I will remain pessimistic for the next five years. I'll be optimistic when I start seeing law and order.

I don't care about power, income, or travel these days, I just want security. I don't care by whom and by how.

Faris, 23-year-old student from Basra, of Sunni and Shia heritage

Living here is like putting fuel near to a fire, it is just a matter of time before there is war.

I will vote no in the constitution, because the document they wrote will not satisfy what we really need.

Religion has a great effect on politics here. I have been a victim of that. My family have been threatened.

My mother is Shia and my father Sunni, I have both Sunni and Shia thinking.

I have lived here for 22 years and about 19 of those have been spent in war
A few days ago I got a taxi in Basra and the driver was thinking out loud about the constitution. He told me he thought it was better to divide Iraq between the north, the centre and the south.

I asked why, and he said: "Because people in Baghdad or Ramadi and other places do not care about us. They were the people who benefited most from Saddam's regime."

He represents what many people think in Iraq.

There will, I think, be a war between the Sunni and Shia. Some even say that in Basra the Iraqi flag will be replaced with an Iranian one.

Many Iranians have come to Basra to settle here, I think they are the people responsible for terrorism here.

I am pessimistic about the future. I have lived here for 22 years and about 19 of those have been spent in war.

I hope to get abroad.

Lidra, engineer in Baghdad, Shia

All my family will vote "yes" in the referendum, for one simple reason: If you vote "no" then everything will start again as if the events of recent times were in vain.

A man in Baghdad, Iraq, pastes up posters promoting the country's new constitution
Militants are expected to attempt to disrupt the poll
If the referendum fails, a new elections will bring a new parliament and a new committee. They will rewrite the draft, other people will vote "no" again and it will continue in a circle.

The losers are the Iraqi people. If we say yes, every paragraph is changeable. Nothing is sacred in that draft.

We do not want to see the Baath party once again ruling Iraq, but unfortunately I can predict that this will happen in spite of the people's will.

The Shia were victims in the past and in the present time and the future as well.

Today I was reading an Iraqi newspaper. It said that Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League, will meet Saddam during his visit to Iraq.

He wants to make Saddam a part of the reconciliation conference which all Sunnis supporters want to hold in the near future.

I only wish that the occupation forces acted realistically in Iraq. If they want to take anything - let them take it, but in a civilised way. Let them not ruin everything.

We have lost Iraq's wealth for decades - what does it matter if we lose more?

Iraq has not witnessed a fair and just reign during all its years of history.

Waria, businessman, Kirkuk, Sunni

I am Kurdish and Sunni. I live in the city of Kirkuk and this city is ethically mixed and oil rich. Most of people are employed by the government and the living standards are not good.

I think the constitution means a foundation for a nation to move towards development, freedom and fidelity
Corruption is everywhere and the political parties are working for their interests and agendas only.

I even feel the people in this city are not too happy about the constitution and they are not happy with administration of the city.

I worry about violence between the religious groups. It seems to be more likely than it was last year as now the Shia are running the government and have been doing a poor job for the past six months.

My thoughts may be different from other Iraqis, as I lived abroad for many years, but I think the constitution means a foundation for a nation to move towards development, freedom and fidelity.

I believe it is the most important law for any nation, including Iraq.

However, the majority of people I meet and see on a daily basis in Iraq feel the constitution will not change anything in the current situation.

They have less faith in the constitution, especially after they voted with such enthusiasm in the election and yet there has not been much improvement in terms of security and basic public services.

In fact, people feel that corruption is at its height and the constitution will not do anything to make that better.

I don't think turnout for the constitution will be as big as it was for the election.

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