View Full Version : I guess the Iraqis took this "So called election" seriously

02-02-2005, 12:45 AM
Iraqis Exercised Right to Vote and Paid With Their Lives

AJAF, Iraq, Feb. 1 - Salim Yacoubi bent over to kiss the purple ink stain on his twin brother's right index finger, gone cold with death.

"You can see the finger with which he voted," Shukur Jasim, a friend of the dead man, said as he cast a tearful gaze on the corpse, sprawled across a body washer's concrete slab. "He's a martyr now."

The stain marked the hard-won right to vote that the man, Naim Rahim Yacoubi, had exercised on Sunday - and the price he paid.

Mr. Yacoubi, 37, was one of at least 50 Iraqis who died in bomb and mortar attacks as millions of people marched to polling centers in the country's first free elections in decades. At least nine suicide bombs exploded in Baghdad alone. In one of those, the bomber blew himself up outside Kurdis Primary School near the airport, sending dozens of shards of shrapnel into Mr. Yacoubi.

The victims of election day violence are being hailed by many Iraqis as the latest shuhada, or martyrs, in a nearly two-year insurgency that has claimed the lives of thousands. They were policemen who tried to stop suicide bombers from entering polling centers, children who walked with elderly parents to cast votes, or - in the case of Mr. Yacoubi - a simple fishmonger who, after voting, took tea from his house to electoral workers at the school.

At those polling centers wracked by explosions, the survivors refused to go home, steadfastly waiting to cast their votes as policemen swept away bits of flesh.

Shiites Arabs, oppressed under the rule of Saddam Hussein, turned out to vote in large numbers, and those who died in the attacks are being taken now to the sprawling cemetery in this holiest of Shiite cities, for burials considered befitting of their sacrifices.

The official cause of death on Mr. Yacoubi's death certificate reads: "Explosion on the day of elections."

As the body washer sponged Mr. Yacoubi, blood as dark as the ink on his finger ran from cuts in the back of his head. Four wailing brothers clutched at the corpse. A group of women in full-length black gowns keened outside.

"All of us talked about the elections," Hadi Aziz, a 60-year-old neighbor, said. "We were waiting impatiently for this day so we could finally rid ourselves of all our troubles. Naim was just like any Iraqi who hoped for a better future for Iraq, who wanted stability for Iraq. We hoped that after the elections, the American forces would withdraw from our country."

Two days before the vote, the portly Mr. Yacoubi, a father of nine, drove with his friend Mr. Jasim to the Shiite neighborhood of Khadimiya to have a new robe made for the occasion, Mr. Jasim said.

He arose at dawn on Sunday and put on the tan robe.

"He was very proud and he put perfume on himself and gave out pastries and tea," Mr. Jasim said.

At 8:30 a.m., Mr. Yacoubi walked to the local primary school to cast his vote, Mr. Jasim said. He was frisked by policemen as he stood in line. Inside one of the classrooms, he checked off box no. 169 on the national ballot, throwing his support to a slate of candidates backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric in Iraq.

Then, impressed by the dedication of the electoral volunteers, Mr. Yacoubi went home to boil tea for them, Mr. Jasim said. He had dropped off the glasses and was walking from the school when the explosion ripped through the area.

Shards of metal flew into the entire back of Mr. Yacoubi, from his head down to his ankles.

"It's not the man who exploded himself who's a martyr," Mr. Jasim said as the body washer wiped dried blood from the wounds. "He wasn't a true Muslim. This is the martyr. What religion asks people to blow themselves up? It's not written in the Koran."

Mr. Aziz, the neighbor, nodded.

"This is the courage of Iraqis," he said of Mr. Yacoubi's decision to vote, "and we will change the face of history. This is our message to the countries of the world, especially those that are still under a dictatorship and want to walk the same road as the Iraqis."

In the dusty lot outside, another family strapped a coffin holding the body of a policeman onto the roof of a blue minivan. He had been washed. Now it was time to take him to the golden-domed Shrine of Ali for his final blessings.

The previous day, the caretakers had buried a policeman who lost the bottom half of his body. He was standing next to a suicide bomber at a polling center on Sunday when the bomb detonated.

The body of the second policeman, Adil al-Nassar, 40, killed in a bombing in western Baghdad, was mostly intact.

The explosion took place as Mr. Nassar tackled a man who had leapt into a line of women voting at Osama Bin Zaid Primary School, said Kadhum al-Hashim, the policeman's father-in-law.

"There were many people, and Adil was just guiding the voters into the school when the terrorist jumped into the line of women," Mr. Hashim said. The dead man's brother, Muhammad Nassar, wiped away tears with a white scarf.

His brother had joined the new police force just a year ago, he said. The policeman had a family to feed: a wife and three children, the eldest an 8-year-old son.

"He's a martyr now," Mr. Nassar said. "He saved many lives for the greater good."

"Despite the explosion, the voters came back to the polling center as if nothing had happened," Mr. Hashim said proudly. "The police just evacuated the bodies, then let people back in."

An elderly neighbor, Kadhum Hussein, said the elections had been worth all the heartache.

"God has spared our lives and spared us from the dictator," he said as he scratched his white beard. "The situation is better than before, and we are freed from all things under the past regime."

One man in the funeral gathering showed visitors two palm-sized laminated cards with Koranic verses that the dead policeman had carried in his pocket. Each was marred by several shrapnel holes. One verse read: "God, I ask you for your mercy, because we come to return to you and we ask you for your help and to meet our needs."

Just then, a station wagon pulled up with a pair of wooden coffins on the roof. Several men piled out and pulled from the coffins the bodies of two brothers. One's intestines were exposed.

They were killed Sunday by a mortar round as they walked with their parents to a polling center in a Baghdad slum, family members said. Two more martyrs, two more bodies to wash and bury.