With less than two weeks before Iraq's first democratic election in nearly 50 years, Iraqi exiles around the world have begun registering to vote. Organizers are hoping most of the 1.2 million Iraqis living abroad will participate in this historic election.
Nassima Barzani fled Iraq 30 years ago, after Iraqi security forces killed 20 members of her family. She's been living in exile ever since, first in Iran and now Australia. She says the upcoming election is about her homeland's future and hopes it will bring her country democracy, freedom and peace.
Nassima is just one of more than a million exiled Iraqis in 14 countries who began registering on Monday for the January 30th election. They are choosing members of the 275-member Assembly, which will then elect a president and two deputy presidents as well as draft Iraq's Constitution.
Potential voters have to appear in person twice, once to register and again to vote, frustrating many would-be voters who live long distances from the polling sites.
Roger Bryant, with the International Organization for Migration -- which is coordinating the overseas voting -- says, "Not everyone will be happy, if they really want to vote, [they] may have to travel a very long day to reach a facility. But that is, I'm afraid, the nature of a limited operation."
Haeder Mohammed, a teacher, traveled more than 500 kilometers from his home in New York to register in Washington, D.C. While the process has been confusing, he feels it's important to vote. "We are doing it for so many reasons; of course for Iraq's future, for our people there. Even if we live here, we want Iraq to be stable."
The seven-day registration period ends January 23rd, with overseas voting scheduled to run from January 28th through January 30th.