Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My ink-tipped index

Of all the great things this election has meant to me, the dark blue ink of the tip of my finger will remain a memory of my first vote for years to come. As a matter of fact the blue inky tip of the index finger was a symbol of the democracy that Kurdish people seek to achieve. It was a representation of hope, unity, justice and freedom. It was something unique with profound symbolism. That is exactly why as I voted yesterday I compressed it as deep as I could into the bottle—hence, in attempting to write this piece, it is unavoidable on the keyboard.

July 25 finally arrived, after months of preparation, discussions and despite all confrontations and forces working against this democratic process, election 2009 definitely received the attention and concern of elections in many developed democratic nations. The ink-tipped index finger was an image that exhibited to the world the democracy that is taking place in the Kurdistan region.

After spending years of my life abroad I never imagined my first vote will be back home- in Kurdistan. Having to sign next to my name, receiving the voting papers and then taking five or six steps towards the ballot box was all slow motion in my mind. In those few minutes so much and so many things took my attention. Having already made up my mind of who to vote for, it was simple marking off two ticks, although for me, there was a meaning much deeper than just a tick.

Looking onto the paper I could not perish the images of the Halabja Genocide victims or the Anfal, the Peshmerga martyrs and the image of the many elderly women I had seen during the election campaign- mothers of martyrs and victims of injustice. I remembered the days when my family fled this country, fearing our life; I remembered the years my father, uncles and grandparents spent in the mountains, so a day like this could become reality and not just a dream. I felt gratified and appreciative of the fact I had the responsibility on my shoulders to elect the next government and President of our nation despite a horrific past.
As I placed the voting papers into each of the two boxes, I felt I was a citizen of this land, I felt my voice was important; my ballot was one more to the hundreds already there, although it is this idea that many individuals make up this great society that made me smile and take a deep breath before I pushed the second paper into the long plastic container.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, the Kurdish people were suppressed; they were victims of genocide and discrimination by a regime that knew no better. Today for that exact nation to be able to hold elections that to a large degree are free, transparent and democratic is a demonstration of the heroic and valiant nation that it is. Despite all difficulties, to be able to stand on its own and experience a day such as July 25, 2009- is indeed something every Kurd should be proud of.
The culture of democracy is certainly appearing in the region. Many elderly people guided by one or more of their children were making their way towards the ballot box, some could barely stand upright, probably the first and last time they will be alive to vote; with no pressure on them to go out in the hot weather to a local voting station, and despite their weakness they saw it as its their duty to express their voices.

The scene of families going out together to a local school was in every corner of the region, it was a day where everyone was equal; Kurd or Assyrian; Muslim or non-Muslim; woman or man; wealthy or poor; young or old. This image was clear just by observing any voting venue. That exact nation who was suppressed and victimized gave rights to all its citizens to vote-- even criminals behind bars were given the same privilege as those walking free.
A number of officials made their way to the voting stations along side their partners, this was observed in nearly all Kurdish channels, it gave many people the courage who had not yet voted to also take their wives or daughters when they went to the ballot box later in the afternoon.
During this election process it was an opportunity for Kurdistan to show itself to the world as a democratic nation, which is taking progressive steps towards becoming a region of great opportunities.

For a young Kurdish girl, who was eligible to vote for the first time in her life, I could not have lived a happier or prouder moment such as that of the hot Saturday of July 25; it gave me another reason to be optimistic for tomorrow, and the future-- I could see a brighter light ahead and a future that looks promising in many ways.

C. Sazan M. Mandalawi published in the Kurdish Globe ( July 09

Saturday, July 25, 2009

JULY 25!!

Voted for the first time in my life today. So far the process has been smooth, with very little problems, as some people's names have not returned in the voting stations. Other than that, all has been great!!
Prior to making my vote I was watching Kurdish officials making their votes on TV- it was all broadcasted live in our local and satellite stations which was great! there is full day covery of the election in Kurdistan.

I was happy to watch PM Nechirvan Barzani cast his vote along side his partner, Erbil Governor Mr. Nawzad Hadi and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani all came to the polls with their partners- in my opinion was great and a big step for Kurdish Culture, it gave encouragement for other normal men in the Kurdish society to go to the polls with their families.

The atmosphere in Erbil has been superb during the time of the election campaign; now we all wait for the election results; it should be interesting. I am very proud that international supervisers and people were invited, Kurdistan opened its doors for all to make sure the elections were fair!! There will be no excuses and no one will have prove to say the elections were not run well- there was transparency, accuracy and fairness.

At the election rally

As I write today, I have blisters in my feet, my face is red as a ripe tomato because of the sizzling sun, my back hurts because I have been on my feet for hours, I have a round patch around my eyes because of the sunglasses. I have been pushed, shoved squashed and squeezed yet I feel deep contentment as I spent another unforgettable day of my life in Kurdistan in one of the elections rallies in Erbil.
I was in the Franso Hariri stadium where Presidential candidate Masoud Barzani gave a speech to thousands of spectators and Kurdish singer Zakaria Abdulla concluded the night with some of his top hit songs. It is rare that we spend a day and there is so much to write of, yet it is difficult to chose a starting point, no matter how much I will try to express the sentiment and atmosphere in the stadium it will never reflect the reality and the inimitable experience.
Of all the thousands of people in the stadium I cannot remove from my mind the image of the elderly woman who had made her way inside the arena gates and onto the pitch, waving a Kurdish flag in each of her hands, folk singing in an almost yodeling tune in support of her preferred presidential candidate. She was just one of the many elderly women who had made their way into a swarming and crammed stadium. The tears in her eyes made me feel the wounds of her experiences, the suffering of her past and the contentment of the present moment.
The red, white, green and yellow colors were swaying in all directions like ocean waves; women, men and children; the rich and the poor; the old and the young; the Badini and the Sorani-- there was no difference, all I could sense was Kurds celebrating a day like today together. Kurds were rejoicing a moment that our grandparents were only dreaming of and the generation before us sacrificed their lives for.
The smile would not leave the face of An Ex-Peshmerga who had lost both his legs and was guided by his wife into the stadium on a wheelchair, he pushed himself this way and that way, waved the flag, sang along, clapped and would dance if he could. Nor would the smile abandon the cute face of a child with painted cheeks and Kurdish flag headband.
The crowed did not look comfortable; all falling on each other but it did not prevent the chanting, screaming and singing becoming louder every second. From a distant the stadium looked like an overflowing cup with young people sitting on the edges in the brim. The cheering was loud, it was unique and many of what was said indeed was funny but all for a good purpose-- in support of the election rally.
Few of the fights and citizens doing the impossible to get a clear glimpse of the VIPs present gave the evening an enthusiastic and a fanatical mood with lots of energetic vibes from young and old people. As the celebrations came to an end, the clever ones began to leave before the official completion to avoid being jammed in a crammed crowd. Although the slogans, support and the singing continued as groups chanted with flags and posters through the busy streets that surrounded the stadium well into the night.
The fact that there are a large number of lists participating in the elections as rivals or competitors is to a great degree a healthy competition. There has been no law that has prohibited any list or presidential candidate to nominate themselves in the election process. This has already put pressure and responsibility on the winning candidates to gratify the public and fulfill their duties favorably in fear of the elections after this. Steadily Kurdistan is taking steps in fulfilling a healthy and democratic government; the fact that supervisors have been invited from abroad is also a bonus that reflects the amount of transparency and fairness that will be in this election.
I am very proud, as a young Kurdish girl to be witnessing a day like today in Kurdistan. Nevertheless, my small condemnation is that I wished to see the Presidential candidates and the head of different lists to appear in the public with their wives or daughters in the campaigning process; immediately there will be a revolution in the Kurdish culture in regards to women’s status and roles in society. Although I am confident it will not be long before a step like this will take place—maybe the candidates will broadcast victory celebrations with their families for the public to witness.
Now I know why I left behind foreign land and came back to Kurdistan. I am here because I want to experience moments like this, the feelings I had in the middle of the stadium I would not exchange to any paradise place in this world. It was indeed a day that I was proud to be still living to see and experience.

by Sazan M. Mandalawi Published: June in Kurdish globe (