“I choose My Representative for Iraqi Parliament”

Kirkuk-KirkukNow “I vote to able able to return to my home in Babel… We got tired of being refugees for a year, two years, five years…” Haji Adnan Hamd (Age 51) had a different idea about the elections before the seminar of Independent Media of Kurdistan (IMOK) which was to increase awareness of the refugees about the elections, and said, “Voting will not change anything.” One could tell that Haji Adnan was exhausted by his look, and he seemed older than he is. During the seminar, he put his fist under his chin and listened to the lecturer. It has been four years that he is displaced and eagerly waits to return to his home. Haji Adnan is now a refugee in Chamchamal, and in fact he has been refugee in four other provinces except Sulaymaniyah  due to the invasion of Islamic State. Before the seminar, Haji Adnan knew nothing about the election procedures, and he sat on the front line of the chairs. Regularly, he was asking, and the lecturer provided him with answers. IMOK prepared seminars simultaneously in Erbil, Kirkuk, and Duhok provinces with sponsorship of the Dutch organization (HIVOS), and the lecturers were a team of IMOK. At the seminar that Haji Adnan attended on April 17th, 21 out of the 55 participants were females. Haji Adnan and his family left Babel province and headed to Kurdistan Region of Iraq when Islamic State attacked some Iraqi provinces in 2014. Recently, they are refugees in Chamchamal, and Haji Adnan himself, his wife, and both of his children have the right to vote in the coming Iraqi parliament election.

Chamchamal, 17th April 2018. IMOK seminar for the refugees to give instructions for the coming election. Photo: IMOK
At the beginning of the seminar, the lecturer asked the participants what would happen if they participate in the election and vote. Haji Adnan was the first one who answered and said, “Nothing, nothing will change.” The lecturer started the seminar by explaining that voting is one of the basic rights of citizens and the importance of the refugees’ votes. He also mentioned the role of the chosen representatives and their significance in parliament. The disadvantages of not participating the refugees in the elections were introduced to the participants, and how their boycotting will lead to more frauds in the elections. The participants came up with many ideas and questions, and they asked for explanations on the importance of parliament, people choosing of the representatives, and do they really care about their votes? Zwhra Ali (Age 34) who was another participant at the seminar said, “We demand for satiability to be able to return to our homes, we need more public services, and how electing new parliament and government can fulfill these promises?” The lecturer clarified the importance of voting and refugees votes, and why voting is the only way to elect representatives. He added more and said that without electing the representatives and establishing parliament, the formation of government is not possible, and without the existence of a new government, executing laws, providing public services, and restoring destructions will not be achieved. Dawd Nasih, who is not able to return to Tuz Khurmatu district in Saladden province, was another participant of another lecture of the same day, and he said, “Now I am aware of the significance of our votes, and I will go to receive the electoral voter cards of my mother and myself to vote in the coming election to elect our representatives, and prevent others to do so illegally instead of us.” Haji Adnan changed his mind after two hours of discussion, and restated his question to how we can vote? Do we all have the right to vote? In his last question, he asked, “How can I vote while I do not have the electoral voter card...” he stood up and asked the lecturer, “…I am one those who will participate the election and vote, now, tell me what to do?” According to the decision of the Independent High Electoral Commission in Iraq (IHEC), all the refugees who have the right to vote can vote at their camps, and if they do not have the electoral voter cards, they can participate in the process with other documents like refugee documents or any other personal documents. The decision was made because the refugees either they cannot return to their homes, or they have lost all of their personal documents during the Islamic State invasions, and Haji Adnan is an example of millions of refugees.

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