- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Iraqi citizens living in the United States continued to arrive yesterday in Prince George’s County to register to vote in their country’s upcoming election.

Mustafa Alnajar arrived after a 10-hour bus ride.

“I videotaped the experience to show my family in Iraq what I’ve done,” said Mr. Alnajar, 38, who came in one of two buses chartered by Iraqi nationals from New England.

Election officials said more than 300 people, including some who came to the area by airplane, had registered since Monday at the Ramada Inn conference center in New Carrollton.

An estimated 240,000 Iraqis are living in the United States. They have until Jan. 23 to register to vote at official sites in New Carrollton, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Nashville, Tenn. They can vote from Jan. 28 to Jan. 30.

Voting in Iraq in the country’s first independent election in nearly 50 years will be held Jan. 30.

“It took 10 hours to get here,” said Aqil Alghiczy, 34, a Boston resident on one of the charter buses. “We left Boston around 10 p.m., but made stops along the way in Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island to pick up people.”

To register, voters must show two photo identifications, be born in Iraq and be at least 18 years old. Those who qualify are given a receipt that they must present when returning to vote.

“It’s a duty to vote, to thank all the thousands of people who’ve made this day possible,” said Adil H. Elhaimus, 67, of Arlington. “A lot of American people have paid with their lives to give us the ability to vote. We, the Iraqi-American and the Iraqi citizens, are grateful.”

The conference center has 15 registration stations, each manned with seven officials speaking English and Arabic.

“I came to vote because I’m Iraqi and concerned about my voice being heard,” said Abdelkarim Alrekabi, 46, of Boston. “I urge all my brothers and sisters in Iraq to vote.”

Rajab Doski of Oakton brought his 9-month-old baby and 3-year-old daughter to witness the occasion.

“Freedom and democracy are best for Iraq,” he said. “No one can tell you who to vote for. No one can say you must vote for Saddam [Hussein.] Now everyone has a chance.”

Mr. Alghiczy called Saddam “the worst enemy,” but was resentful that coalition forces led by the United States removed him from power.

“I would have preferred that Iraqi people took out Saddam, then organize the country with the U.S. backing them,” he said.

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