Monday, October 17, 2005------------------------------------------------------------------------
Knowing my son played a major role in allowing everyone to vote, I read this article with pride:
Shiite election workers say danger worthwhile
By Sabrina Tavernise
New York Times News Service
Published October 16, 2005
RAMADI, Iraq -- Clutching net bags of overnight essentials with boxes of ballots under their arms, about 700 poll workers climbed aboard giant armored trucks Friday and rode along one of Iraq's most dangerous highways to voting sites all over this city.
The workers--mostly poor Shiites from southern Iraq and slums in Baghdad--came to run polling stations in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and the center of Iraq's violent insurgency. The pay was low ($300 for 10 days) considering that the risk was high (as of 7 p.m., U.S. Marines had found at least six roadside bombs in the western part of the city alone).
Even so, the workers could barely suppress their joy.
"Before, we faced danger that was not useful," said Khalid Hassan, a 53-year-old government employee from Diwaniyah in southern Iraq, referring to the wars fought under Saddam Hussein. But since the Americans arrived, he said, "the danger, it has a purpose."
Divides between Iraq's largest sects are sharply defined in Anbar, a Sunni Arab province west of Baghdad. Shiites broadly support the document, which gives them promises of new powers. Many Sunnis, who were once the ruling class, oppose it. An important part of the battle will play out in Anbar, the only province in Iraq where Sunnis are the overwhelming majority.
The fact that Shiite election workers have come to this province puts a strange new wrinkle in Iraqi history. Hassan recalled referendums in the time of Hussein, when members of the Baath Party, often Sunni, would busily prepare ballots and polling stations and Shiites would dutifully vote although they already knew the outcome.
"Before, the elections were fake, and they were pushing it on us," he said. Now Shiites are the organizers. The difference, he explained, smiling, is that "now there is no pushing."
"People did not come here for the money," said Osama Majid, 31, a medical resident from Baghdad. "They came because there's a fire inside them."
On Friday, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the gymnasium where Hassan was working.
"Peace has not yet broken out in Ramadi," said Capt. Phillip Ash, commanding officer of Company K of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.