News

Program Scrambles to Prepare Overseas Iraqis for Upcoming Elections

An estimated one million Iraqis living outside Iraq are expected to take part in the country's elections for a transitional national assembly at the end of this month. 

The International Organization for Migration's Iraq Out-of-Country Voting Program is working to inform and register Iraqi expatriates who are eligible to vote. 

From Amman, Jordan, the program's spokeswoman Monique De Groot said potential voters must be at least 18-years-old, prove their identity and show evidence of their Iraqi nationality.

"Iraqis must be able to prove their eligibility with at least two documents that have been issued by a state, or a state agency or an international institution," she explained.  "Such documents could be a passport, a marriage certificate, a military document, or a driver's license."

She added that security is a legitimate concern at polling stations outside the country, as well.

"I'm not saying that we do expect security problems, but security is an obvious issue that we have to take into account very seriously, with implementation of the operation," she added.  "So, we do work very closely together with the host government on the issue and their particular department within the government, to take care of public security."

Iraqis overseas must register in person, at polling stations in cities in 14 different countries.  These countries are Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

Registration lasts  a week,  from January 17 to January 23.  After that, registered voters overseas must return to the polling station to cast their ballots from January 28-30.

Mohamad Hanon, an Iraqi adviser to the program in the United States, says he thinks his fellow Iraqis are, in his words, "excited and eager" to participate.

"For them, it's historical and it's the very first time for them to exercise their democratic right to decide who is going to run the country," he noted.

Mr. Hanon says he does not know whether most members of the Iraqi community in the United States are Arabs or Kurds, Christians or Muslims, Sunnis or Shias.  But he says he believes the overseas bloc will be an important voice in the overall results.

"Over the course of years, during the Baathist regime, during Saddam's period, iraqis have fled, a large number of Iraqis fled the country," he said.  "The numbers are said to be somewhere between three and five million expats.  So, given that number and given how many people are going to vote, I would say there will be a significant influence or impact on the election, itself."

In the United States, polling sites will be set up in five cities -- Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Los Angeles, California; Nashville, Tennesee; and Washington, DC. 

One potential voter is Sarhad Jammo, the Iraqi-American bishop of a Catholic Chaldean church in San Diego, California.

Bishop Jammo says there are 30,000 ethnic Iraqis living in the San Diego-area, all of whom want to exercise their rights to participate in the democratic process to build a new Iraq.  He adds, though, that many of them believe it is not fair that the nearest polling station to his city is three hours away by car.

"And that will create in the heart of the people a feeling of frustration and of, just, protest, and maybe boycotting it [the election] because they say that's what they [the organizers] want," he said.  "They want to bar us from going to polls."

The U.S. spokesman for the Iraq Out-of-Country Voting Program, Jeremy Copeland, says the U.S. cities were chosen based on concentration of the local Iraqi community there.

"We think about one-third of Iraqis, just over one-third, actually, are around Detroit and places like Southfield and Dearborn [Michigan]," he explained.  "We're looking at probably about 125,000 Iraqis there.  Also, a large population in Chicago.  There's a significant population in Nashville, Kurdish, in particular.  Also a large population in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, as well as [Washington,] DC.  And, then, there are pockets all over the place -- New York, Washington state, Texas, Arizona, Nebraska."

Mr. Copeland said Iraqis often raise questions about the voting center locations at town hall meetings that have been held in the five U.S. cities.  But he added that potential voters also want to know more about the elections themselves, and the more than 100 political groups that are slated to run.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs