The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

22 January 2005

Iraqi-Americans Driving Thousands of Miles to Vote

Why? Because they love freedom. They've been waiting for this opportunity for decades.

How does a newspaper that fought this occupation every step of the way, insisting on a full pullout of foreign troops months ago, reconcile that position with images of Iraqi-Americans loading up into vans, driving 1200 miles in the wintertime, just to register to vote?

That's right, it's just to register, they have to make the same trip to Irvine, California (or a small number of alternate sites elsewhere around the world) on election day to actually cast a ballot!

How many of us would do the same to protect our freedom? Truly inspirational. Let's wish our Iraqi friends a safe journey.

(Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Faris Al-Sheblawy piled into a van bound for Los Angeles yesterday with his family -- his brothers, his wife, his 4-month-old daughter and in-laws -- a portable DVD player and 50 movies.

The 2,400-mile round trip from Seattle was hardly a vacation. Sometime this morning, the entourage and more than 125 other Iraqi émigrés living in the region will register to vote in the upcoming Iraq elections.

"We have to go. Our leader says we have to go vote," said Al-Sheblawy, referring to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shiite Muslim cleric. "If not, you better have a good reason when you die."

Not all Iraqi expatriates link voting to heavenly rewards, but their message was clear: No matter the difficulty in participating in Iraq's historic election, they were compelled to make the effort.

For Iraqis in the Seattle area, the journey toward democracy will require a 36-hour round trip, not counting gas and bathroom breaks, just to register to vote. They will repeat the trip to cast votes when polls open Jan. 28-30.

"It's a piece of cake," said Abdullah Al-Emara before boarding one of 15 vans leaving Seattle yesterday outside a mosque in White Center. "For 26 million Iraqis' freedom, it's priceless. It's a gift from God."


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