From bullets to ballot box: Libyans freely cast votes

Taking part in democracy a day to rejoice for expats

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Ali Aujali, Libya’s ambassador in Washington, was Gadhafi’s envoy to the United States until he resigned in February 2011, shortly after the uprising began.

“The election is an important milestone in Libya’s transition to democracy,” Mr. Aujali said. “Like most Libyans, my family and I are excited to be voting for the first time in our lives.”

Libyans abroad also are voting this week in Britain, Germany, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Canada.

The process has had its share of teething problems.

Many Libyan-Americans said they were disenfranchised because they could not afford to travel to Northern Virginia to vote.

Nabil Elhuni, a Libyan-American activist in the Philadelphia area, said the election is “flawed.”

“Due to the cost of travel, many people who don’t live near Washington will be disenfranchised,” he said.

A raw nerve

The Libyan High National Election Commission has asked the International Organization for Migration to help conduct voting outside Libya.

Shahrazad Kablan, a Libyan-American who is advising the organization on the elections, said disenfranchisement is a legitimate concern.

“We have a big community in the Midwest and on the West Coast. A lot of them will not be able to come and vote,” she said.

Distance was not an obstacle when Libyan-Americans joined the revolution.

Esam Omeish, a Libyan-American physician in Northern Virginia, treated wounded rebels in the Western Mountains town of Yefren at the height of the uprising.

“A lot of people have shed their blood for this moment, and we, as Libyan-Americans, played no small role in the revolution,” said Dr. Omeish, who was born in Tripoli and moved to the Washington area in 1982.

“It is homecoming for a big event which has engulfed us for over a year,” he said.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.


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