** http://dahrjamailiraq.com **
Some See Hope, Others Civil War
Inter Press Service
BAGHDAD, Jan 27 (IPS) - Some Iraqis are hoping for a new unity
following elections Jan. 30, but others seem convinced that existing
divisions will increase, leading possibly to civil war.
While hundreds of thousands of Kurdish people are traveling from
northern Iraq to Kirkuk to vote, many families in Baghdad are leaving
the city in fear of a huge wave of violence.
Violence continues to escalate throughout Iraq in the run-up to the
elections. Clashes flared Thursday again between occupation forces and
the Iraqi resistance in Baghdad, Tikrit and Samarra.
One U.S. soldier was killed in an attack on a U.S. patrol in the Diyala
province north- east of Baghdad Thursday, and three soldiers were killed
in Baquba town in the area, about 60km north-east of Baghdad.
Iraqis are running into difficult days. The gasoline shortage continues
to worsen. Many residents in Baghdad are struggling to pay the rising
prices of heating gas, cooking gas and petrol.
Whether they intend to vote or not, many hope that elections will lead
to better days, and that they will lead to more stability and unity.
Others are skeptical.
"We hope these elections will bring unity between Shias, Sunnis and the
Kurds," said Abdel Aziz who works at a money exchange booth in Baghdad.
He said he did not know which list of political parties he will vote for
because he found them confusing, but said the elections will not divide
Iraq. "Only the radicals have brought this divisive thinking," he said.
Many Iraqis are hopeful that despite the chaotic atmosphere around the
electoral process, stability and unity will follow.
"I pray the elections will bring us unity," said Ahmed Aziz, 25-year-old
owner of a small grocery stall in central Baghdad. "If it is a
legitimate election, we hope they will bring peace." He paused before
adding, "I hope it will be legitimate, but don't know how we will be
able to tell for sure."
Hamoudi Abdulla, 35-year-old owner of a garments store out shopping for
food with a friend in Karrada district because he feared violence on
polling day, sounded optimistic. "The elections will unite us," he said.
Asked if he was Shia or Sunni, he replied, "I am Iraqi."
His friend Hussam Hammad nodded in agreement. "There is no difference
amongst us," he added. "We are all Iraqi and we are all Muslims. An
election cannot change this fact."
But other Iraqis fear the elections will only bring division between
them, by forcing them to make choices based on ethnicity such as a
Kurdish identity, and on the basis of Sunni and Shia sects.
"No way these elections will bring more unity between Iraqis," said
36-year-old hotel owner Khassem Mohammed. "The differences between
Sunnis and Shia are over 1,400 years old. So how can this rushed
election help bring more unity?"
The hotel owner from Jadriya district of Baghdad said Shia political
parties will gain power and Sunni parties will disappear after the
"Saddam led us into to all of our previous wars, but this time Iraqis
are going to battle themselves because they are now choosing sides," he
added. "I fear civil war now." That is a view several Iraqis seem to hold.
Jassim Khalid who operates a street-side tea stall on Arasat Street in
Baghdad has decided to boycott the elections because he feels, like
Mohammed, that they will bring division.
"I'm not voting because I don't think the elections will bring unity to
Iraq," he said "In fact, they already appear to be doing the opposite."
A hotel guard said Iraqis have never been divided between Shia and
Sunni. "But these elections will cause a split because of the damned
politicians and the influence of the Americans."