One new vote, hundreds of hopes
IDP Youths Look For Returning To Their Homes Through Elections

Karwan Salihi-Kirkuk It’s the first time for Riham Ahmed, 19, to be able to vote; she is very hopeful about election campaign promises. For her, the vital thing is the promise of returning to home and normal life and the end of being displaced. “I’ll gladly go to polls and vote for a candidate.. He/she may be able to do something for us in the future, as employment or being able to return to our homes,” Riham, which is from Hawija (55km west of Kirkuk) said. Her request is the concern of many of those who become internally displaced due to ISIL war and violence in Iraq, especially those who can vote for the first time in their lives as they have just reached 18 or beyond. Hussein Ali, 21, has been a resident of Lailan camp for a year now. His hope is that the first act of the new cabinet after the election would be returning them to their homes to start their normal life, although he finds it impossible. Walking through the Internally Displaced Persons [IDPs], no family finds life in the camp better than home. More disgruntled youths, feeling that they live in confinement, make home-returning their major demand for the upcoming elections. Hussein has yet to receive his voting card. He awaits the electoral body to give him his voting card as he was promised, in order to ensure his participation. He said he hopes to “elect a suitable person”.

Kirkuk, April 2018, Lailan camp IDPs make home-return their major election request. Photo: Karwan Salhi
IDP youths complain that no official body has heeded them, although now numerous new faces and candidates promise to help them and ask for their votes in exchange. According to the Independent High Electoral Commission in Iraq [IHEC] statistics, three million and 300 thousand people are able to vote for the first time among more than 24 million voters in Iraq, those who were born in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000. Bayan Khidir, recently 21, weighs the big burden of the of IDPs in her remarks. Concerning her first election, she said in a cynical tone, “I’d like to take part in the elections and elect a new thief, because the former ones are already full.” Her anger is due to being neglected for years, as she said no candidate can live in their camp for a single day. Her hope and demands for the first election that she can take part were, “I hope that no one sells his/her vote, so we would be able to determine our true representatives, in order to be able to return to our homes and lives, to provide stability, and employ graduates.” According to the International Organization for Migration [IOM], more than two million and 200 thousand people live in IDP camps in all Iraq currently, due to lack of stability and services in their homes. “I’ll gladly go to the polls to change current faces and elect considerate people, truly attentive to our concerns,” said Rafii Hamid, 19, who is also able to vote for the first time. Hamid claims to have been through a lot in past four years. They lost all their belongings when they fled from ISIL in Hawija, now he feels as he is confined in the camp, as he is not able to go out. Hamid urged people of his age to participate in the elections, especially those who demand change, “We have not seen any good deeds up to now, let’s hope it will be better this time.” IDPs vote in four ways in the elections, some through biometric cards, others through electronic cards, short-term cards, or conditional voting. Although he is able to take part in the elections for the first time in his life, Ahmed Matar is hopeless about the government, and he takes part only to prevent other people to vote in his stead. He said in a desperate tone, “Even if the new government is formed, I’d prefer the camp, as ISIL can return,” he asked the candidates to be “at least” better than their predecessors. According to the law for the parliamentary election of 12 May, Iraqi government has been obliged to implement eight demands, among them are the return of the IDPs, guarantee for the participation of all citizens and providing ballot boxes for the IDPs. Riham Ahmed, the girl who eagerly awaits using her first vote, expects other voters to see their votes as significant and turn it into a pressure card. She called on the political parties and said, “You see we live in this situation. Have some sympathy for those who vote once in four years and later receive regrets every day.”

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