At last, a real Iraqi election, the event we have waited decades to see, is coming true. And now, as we prepare to vote, we remember all those who sacrificed their lives, their families and their youth, so that such a day would come. These words might look abstract to those who did not live under Saddam’s regime, but for us, who lost loved ones and suffered long years of pain and sorrow, they are not abstractions at all.
We did not expect the events that have occurred since the fall of Saddam on April 9, 2003. Most of us expected the tyrant’s collapse would make the remnants of his regime—and others who assisted the monster to stay in authority for so long, feeding on the blood of Iraqis—withdraw into themselves, keeping silent, hoping for the forgiveness of the people As we see, this did not take place. Instead, they reorganized their resources and power, formed regular links with foreign terrorists, and took the initiative to start again, although in quite different circumstances, what they had been doing for years: killing innocent Iraqis.
A few weeks ago, a relative of mine, a simple worker, one of those Iraqis whom the regime forced to spend his youth in military service and wars, was killed in an explosion on a highway. He was a father of six children. A few days ago, one of my best friends, a writer and a highly educated person—a man who had managed to resist the political pressure and threats from the Baathists for decades—was assassinated by remnants of the regime. Meanwhile, there have been countless explosions in Baghdad recently, one of which took the lives of 37 children.
And yet, we are resisting. The people who opposed the dictatorship for decades continue to struggle against it, even as it changes to secret bloody organizations using terror, assassination and hidden bombs as weapons. The true “resistance” is not the bloody terrorist groups and lost regime murderers shown on the Arab or American media all the time, but everyday Iraqis. People who suffered for decades because of Saddam’s killers and now hope to have a good, normal life like other people in the world. People like my relative who was going to work to feed his family, and people like my friend who challenged all the threats and risks and decided to make his voice heard and his existence felt.
When the regime collapsed, most Iraqis believed this would be the start of a new period, one of peace and development, a period in which our people could take off the military uniform from their bodies and souls and start rebuilding their country. But now, faced with the challenge of terrorists who would try to destroy our chances for a peaceful life, Iraqis are feeling once more the call to battle, but this time for a totally different reason: a battle in the name of democracy and progress
Just as in the past, when the crimes of Saddam fed the deep hatred for the man and his regime in the Iraqi soul, so now the increasingly criminal actions of anti-democracy groups feed a sense of resolve in the breasts of Iraqis to fight for their democratic future. Today, I see how friends, relatives and acquaintances—some of whom have lost loved ones to the terrorists—are now rising to the challenge, not only to take part in the coming elections, but to participate in the future of Iraq’s development. I see how people who once seemed hesitant or apathetic about events have become aware that the battle for democracy and freedom is their own battle, and if they are going to have a better life for themselves and their children, they must take part in this battle one way or another.
This feeling extends not only to intellectuals but to the average person in the street, who has gradually become aware that the new enemy, the new disease that infected this country after the collapse of the regime, is something we must face, sooner or later. It is taking away each day the lives of more and more Iraqis. It is not going to stop and yet it must be stopped.
And by this spirit, and through this spirit, we Iraqis are going to participate in the elections, that political slap in the face for all those who support terrorism and want to postpone our destiny as long as they can. Our increasing spirit of resistance and hope for the future is perhaps the best example of how terrorism can never stop a people’s will to be free.