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The day the Iraqis fought back (JERUSALEM POST) By ORLY HALPREN 02/01/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1107141483733 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
For the last two years, "democracy" has been a bad word in Iraq. The daily car bombings, rocket attacks, assassinations and kidnappings took control of Iraqis´ lives in a way that Saddam Hussein never did.

Shi´ites and Sunnis alike asked themselves and reporters, "Who needs this?" Often the words would be said as if spitting, or followed up with a curse. "This is democracy?" a taxi driver would ask, his face screwed up as he maneuvered his way past the cars driving onto the highway by way of the exit ramp.

Like the traffic in Iraq, which ceased to have rules after the fall of Saddam, the country seemed to be working – or not – in the same way. Laws may have existed, but there was no one to enforce them.

The US occupation, which US President George W. Bush claimed brought democracy and freedom, had instead brought terrorists, insurgents and criminals who became the real rulers of Iraqis´ daily lives.

Women stopped leaving their homes without an armed male relative, and children were taken out of school for fear of abduction. University educators were targeted, creating mayhem in the education system.

As electricity grids and water and oil pipes were targeted, businesses closed for lack of power, babies were hospitalized for dehydration and millions of Iraqis spent many hours in lines – even waiting through the night – for a tank of gas.

The overwhelming majority of Iraqis believed democracy was equivalent to chaos. And if they weren´t sure, Abu Musa al-Zarqawi promised to fill the streets with voters´ blood.

But on Sunday, that changed. The word "democracy" became glorious and took on another meaning: fearlessness.

In a single day, millions of people made their way to polling stations around Iraq. They realized that the democratic process gave each one of them the power to raise his voice.

But it wasn´t only to choose their leader.

"The main reason we voted was to show the terrorists that we are not afraid anymore," Prof. Abdul Mahdi Talib, the dean of sciences at Baghdad University, told The Jerusalem Post.

He has lost over 20 educators to assassinations.

"So many people are so fed up with the threats of the terrorists," Talib explained. "It didn´t matter whom they voted for. The point was to show you´re not scared."

Using their ballots, the Iraqis made their point. In an unconscious process, Iraqis internalized what it means to decide one´s own fate.

The usual reasons for voting – to have an elected government and to bring stability to the country – came in second and third place, Talib said.

"Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera always said this government was US- appointed not elected," he said. "The people felt they wanted to deal with this argument against Iraq. They wanted to elect a government – even the same prime minister – to give him legitimacy."

Talib walked three kilometers with all five members of his family to get to the polling station. "It was the atmosphere of a battle," he said. "We heard explosions and gunshots."

His voice filled with emotion as he spoke of the historic day. "More than 44 people were killed, but it didn´t stop the Iraqis. More and more went. I saw people pushing people in wheelbarrows or carrying them on their shoulders just to prove that they are not afraid.

"It was a decision by the whole people. Everyone felt that this is the day that they went to prove themselves against the terrorists." (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/01/05)

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