My ink-tipped index

Of all the great things this election has meant to me, the dark blue ink of the tip of my finger will remain a memory of my first vote for years to come. As a matter of fact the blue inky tip of the index finger was a symbol of the democracy that Kurdish people seek to achieve. It was a representation of hope, unity, justice and freedom. It was something unique with profound symbolism. That is exactly why as I voted yesterday I compressed it as deep as I could into the bottle—hence, in attempting to write this piece, it is unavoidable on the keyboard.

July 25 finally arrived, after months of preparation, discussions and despite all confrontations and forces working against this democratic process, election 2009 definitely received the attention and concern of elections in many developed democratic nations. The ink-tipped index finger was an image that exhibited to the world the democracy that is taking place in the Kurdistan region.

After spending years of my life abroad I never imagined my first vote will be back home- in Kurdistan. Having to sign next to my name, receiving the voting papers and then taking five or six steps towards the ballot box was all slow motion in my mind. In those few minutes so much and so many things took my attention. Having already made up my mind of who to vote for, it was simple marking off two ticks, although for me, there was a meaning much deeper than just a tick.

Looking onto the paper I could not perish the images of the Halabja Genocide victims or the Anfal, the Peshmerga martyrs and the image of the many elderly women I had seen during the election campaign- mothers of martyrs and victims of injustice. I remembered the days when my family fled this country, fearing our life; I remembered the years my father, uncles and grandparents spent in the mountains, so a day like this could become reality and not just a dream. I felt gratified and appreciative of the fact I had the responsibility on my shoulders to elect the next government and President of our nation despite a horrific past.
As I placed the voting papers into each of the two boxes, I felt I was a citizen of this land, I felt my voice was important; my ballot was one more to the hundreds already there, although it is this idea that many individuals make up this great society that made me smile and take a deep breath before I pushed the second paper into the long plastic container.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, the Kurdish people were suppressed; they were victims of genocide and discrimination by a regime that knew no better. Today for that exact nation to be able to hold elections that to a large degree are free, transparent and democratic is a demonstration of the heroic and valiant nation that it is. Despite all difficulties, to be able to stand on its own and experience a day such as July 25, 2009- is indeed something every Kurd should be proud of.
The culture of democracy is certainly appearing in the region. Many elderly people guided by one or more of their children were making their way towards the ballot box, some could barely stand upright, probably the first and last time they will be alive to vote; with no pressure on them to go out in the hot weather to a local voting station, and despite their weakness they saw it as its their duty to express their voices.

The scene of families going out together to a local school was in every corner of the region, it was a day where everyone was equal; Kurd or Assyrian; Muslim or non-Muslim; woman or man; wealthy or poor; young or old. This image was clear just by observing any voting venue. That exact nation who was suppressed and victimized gave rights to all its citizens to vote– even criminals behind bars were given the same privilege as those walking free.
A number of officials made their way to the voting stations along side their partners, this was observed in nearly all Kurdish channels, it gave many people the courage who had not yet voted to also take their wives or daughters when they went to the ballot box later in the afternoon.
During this election process it was an opportunity for Kurdistan to show itself to the world as a democratic nation, which is taking progressive steps towards becoming a region of great opportunities.

For a young Kurdish girl, who was eligible to vote for the first time in her life, I could not have lived a happier or prouder moment such as that of the hot Saturday of July 25; it gave me another reason to be optimistic for tomorrow, and the future– I could see a brighter light ahead and a future that looks promising in many ways.

C. Sazan M. Mandalawi published in the Kurdish Globe (www.kurdishglobe.net)- July 09

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