As Iraqis count votes in-country, a considerable number of votes were cast from the outside by ex-pats and refugees. Like the large divergence of Iraq’s political spectrum, (Al Jazeera reports that “Around 19 million eligible voters will choose from over 6,000 candidates from 86 political groups looking to gain seats in the 325-member assembly”) so too is there a large divergence when it comes to voting and the outlook that these refugees have for the country.
It is apparent that all are interested in the process of these elections. Many are full of hope, seeing this as an opportunity for Iraq to become a strong and proud nation, and that this election will provide them the opportunity to return to their homeland. Yet many are also wary about what the future of Iraq holds. A large number of these refugees feel that they are not in a position to return as they are as of yet unsure that the violence which has dissipated will go away completely or return with a vengeance if certain parties do not get their way. In a land that has been decimated by sectarian violence, and where the votes will undoubtedly reflect sectarian affiliations, many simply are still too afraid to return. For some, going back is not an option due to affiliations with the United States government, as well as a myriad of other reasons. Others cite the low amount of efficient infrastructure and the lack of jobs as being reasons they cannot afford to return.
In Syria, the country in which the largest number of Iraqi refugees reside, some feel that the central government in Baghdad is seeking to marginalize their participation by disputing the population figures among refugees. A recent report by the Christian Science Monitor cites that the Iraqi Government greatly underestimates the number of refugees , and only counts those who have registered for refugee status with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), well below the purportedly one million or more who reside there.
In Jordan, there are thought to be around 200,000 Iraqis, but precise figures are hard to come by as many Iraqi’s are not registered as refugees and/or have no permission to live inside the kingdom. Jordanian authorities supervising the voting process for refugees promised to overlook the fact that many Iraqis are here illegally, and are said to be happy with the results of the process.
This Al Jazeera piece from a few days back, does a great job at highlighting the differing situations and opinions Iraqi refugees held on the eve of elections :
As votes are being counted, there is no doubt that Iraqis of all stripes, from near and far are looking on with great interest at the future of their county. Time will only tell what that future will hold.