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Iraq votes for the Constitution and for its future

Chaldean Catholic figures, who have contacts with Kurds, Sunnites and Schi'ites, tell AsiaNews about Iraqi hopes and fears on the eve of the referendum.  

Rome (AsiaNews) ­ Iraq closed its borders today in view of tomorrow's referendum on the Constitution. Barricades have been set up around polling stations in Baghdad and other large cities; many Iraqi families have stocked up on provisions to last for four days of public holidays called by the government with the aim of keeping people indoors. On the eve of the vote, fear and anxiety are prevalent from north to south, but then, so are courage and high hopes.

From diverse zones of Iraq, AsiaNews has gathered feedback from the population, especially Christians, about the lead-up to tomorrow's ballot.

From Amadiyah, in Kurdistan, the Chaldean bishop Rabban al-Qas, said: "Here, the Kurds are prepared to vote positively, not to lose this opportunity which will not present itself again to them. It is important to vote 'yes' for the Constitution. The agreement of the Islamic Party (the largest Sunnite party) with the government has given a boost to Kurds and Schi'ites. It's a pity that some who call themselves Christians have ranged themselves against, especially the Assyrian party.

"I personally have urged Christians to go and vote: this Constitution is certainly not perfect, especially for Christians and Kurds, however it is the best thing we have so far. I hope Kurdistan will be able to contribute to putting there what is now missing, for example, greater guarantees for Christians.

"The rejection of the Constitution would mean the dissolution of parliament and of the government and it would give more rope to our enemies, who want the country's destruction. Voting 'yes' in the referendum, on the other hand, means terrorism will not have the possibility to bring the country under its feet.

"Iraq will never be pacified without the political participation of the Sunnites. I guess that in the coming election, Kurds, Sunnites and the party of Iyad Allawi will take power and they will distance Jaafari (the current Schi'ite premier, ed. note), who is powerless in the face of the chaos prevailing in his government.

"At this time, there is the need to take things as they come and to seek to support those who offer guarantees to make Iraq a free, democratic state, far from Islamic, religious influence. We hope to see this, one day, but education is necessary. I can say that in Kurdistan, youth are well prepared to understand the positive importance of the referendum and elderly people look at the event as the advent of Kurdistan."

The climate among the population in Mosul is practically the opposite. Mosul is the third city of Iraq and it has a Sunnite majority. Here, AsiaNews interviewed the parish priest of the church of the Holy Spirit, the young Chaldean priest,

Ragheed Ganni. "Here, the curfew and ban on circulation of cars was imposed already on 12 October. Mosul is one big pedestrian island: scooters are not allowed, nor are cars. The security situation is worse compared to the January election and I don't know how many people will have the courage to go out of their homes to vote. The agreement of the government with the Islamic Party to back the Constitution has not reassured people, who are still afraid. After news of the agreement, other reports circulated ­ much more widely ­ in Mosul, that other Sunnite groups have disassociated themselves, declaring that the Islamic Party does not represent them and therefore calling for a boycott. For weeks, there have been manifestations in the streets, people in public posts and clerics in mosques are urging people to vote 'no'.

"In recent weeks, Mosul lived through tragic experiences: chaos reigns everywhere. People who have always tried to live their lives as normally as possible, who are used to bombs and shootings, have now stopped going to work. In the eastern part of Mosul ­ controlled by Americans and with a Kurdish and Schi'ite majority ­ the rebels targeted neighbourhoods of industrial activities. After days of shooting, it was decided to stop activities because of the high risk.

"The text of the Constitution never reached Mosul and anyhow people do not have the time or the peace to think about it: the main problem is survival. In my parish alone, three men were kidnapped in a month. Now they have been released but all the community had to contribute to paying the ransom of thousands of dollars. Often people die in even more vain circumstances. Four days ago, an Orthodox, a very old man, was killed by American fire 'by mistake'. During Ramadan, starting from 5 or 6pm, the city empties. All Muslims go home to eat and break their fast. The man went out at this time and he was heading for the bridge which links the two parts of the city. American soldiers started to fire because they were afraid he may be a kamikaze and they killed him. We do not feel protected by anyone."

In the south, dominated by a Schi'ite majority, the situation is peaceful and a high turnout is foreseen. Mgr Djibrail Kassab, Chaldean archbishop of Bassora confirmed this: "The situation is normal and serene and people will go to vote in large numbers. There is no fear: rather one may speak of concern. Security is strict, copies of the Constitution have been sent to nearly all families but I don't know how many have read it. Anyhow, expectations are high: many hope that tomorrow's vote may bring greater stability to the country and lead Iraq down the road to normalization."

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Who are the Christians of Iraq?

October 

Iraq votes for the Constitution and for its future 10, 14, 05

Forgotten victims - Iraqi Christians who speak the language of Jesus  10, 14, 05

Mgr Sako: people in Kirkuk have not read the constitution but will vote  10,13, 05

Terrorism strikes all Iraqis, says Patriarch 10, 13, 05

Assyriska a national football team without a country  10, 12, 05

Referendum: 'Yes' in Kurdistan and Southern cities and 'No' in Kirkuk, al Anbar and Diala 10, 12, 05

Chaos depriving Towns from Voting - The Minorities Fear the Domination of Islamic Parties10, 12, 05 

Bas-reliefs of winged goddesses discovered in western Iran 10, 12, 05

Immigration of Iraqi Chaldeans Abroad Passes through Jordan 10, 12, 05

Baghdadis tell their stories  10, 12, 05

Assyrialogist Henry Saggs Dies at 84 10, 10, 05

Letter by Ms. Jacqueline Zomaya The Assyrian representative to the Iraqi National Assembly 10, 10, 05

The Kurds are "cleansing" their domain ­ and provoking a civil war in Iraq  10, 09, 05

Nestorian label "imposed unjustly upon the Assyrians"  10, 08, 05

Iran's Assyrian MP-Felicitation to the Supreme Leader  10, 8, 05

Syriac Manuscripts from the Vatican Library: Volume 1 10, 08, 05

Sunnis Threaten Referendum Boycott if Rules Not Changed  10, 05, 05

Helping the Iraqi refugees in Jordan  10, 04, 05

Final Draft of Iraqi Constitution  10, 03, 05

Two More Assyrian Children Orphaned  10, 02, 05

Discoveries of the Assyrian antiquities in Syria 10, 01, 05 

Sectarian Strife tears apart Baghdad's Neighborhoods 10, 01, 05

September

POLITICS-IRAQ: Kurd's Voting Shenanigans Cloud Key Province 9, 28, 05 

Church in Iraq Helps Rebuild New Orleans Parish; U.S. Relief Agency Bridges Partnership 9, 28, 05

The Armenian Genocide And The Assyrian Factor 9, 28, 05

Interview with the Writer and the Historian Rosie Malek-Younan 9, 28, 05

Assyrian Cultural Festival in Ceres CA. 9, 27, 05

Swedish Radio's Decision to End Turkish Language Broadcasts 9, 27, 05

Assyrian Refugees Face Harsh Discrimination in Greece 9, 26, 05

A cry of help by the Assyrians 9, 26, 05

samples of songs by various Eastern and Western Assyiran singers. 9, 24, 05

USAID: Iraq Reconstruction and Humanitarian Relief  9, 24, 05

4 Assyrians Killed in Assassination Attempt on Former Iraq Assyrian Minister  9, 23, 05 

Seminar in Stokholm About Seyfo ( world war one massacres)  9, 22, 05

Iraq chaos threatens ancient faith 9, 22, 05 

The Crimson Field Previews 9, 17, 05  

Treatment of Horses" by the Assyrian scientist of the 13th century Faraj  9, 21, 05 

A New Satellite T.V. Program From San Jose 9, 20, 05

English translation of the ancient Mesopotamian tablets  9, 20, 05

First Nestorian [Church of the East] search engine goes online 9, 19, 05

Download Assyrian songs.by ReeMon 9, 18, 05 

Letter from the 'Save the Assyrian Campaign'. 9, 16, 05 

Growing Opposition to Dividing the Assyrians 9, 16, 05

Books by Assyrian writers 9, 15, 05

English cardinal warns of Iraqi constitution  9, 14, 05

Brutality Against Christians in Iraq Continues 9, 13, 05

John Kanno for Congress  9, 12, 05

Reply to Culomnist Ken Rudin   9, 12, 05

Assyrians: Wine-producing season starts in Midyat 9, 11, 05

Iraqi Christians cautious about new constitution 9, 11, 05

Assyrian Human Rights Documentation Project Launched in Canada 9, 6, 05

Fire Consumes Over 500 Assyrian Shops in Baghdad Suburb 9, 6, 05 

Education in Armenia for Assyrians and other Minorities 9, 6, 05

Capital of Musasir gov't in northwest Iran Discovered  9, 5, 05

The Assyrian Democratic Organization Rejects Iraq's Constitution 9, 4, 05

The Ordeal of the Christians in Arab countries 9, 3, 05

August

"Arab Christians"? Not in My View  8, 31, 05

Emotional Funeral for Assyrian Murdered By Kurds in Iraq 8, 31, 05 

Risking it all for a song 8, 31, 05

Iraq's draft constitution and the ChaldoAssyrians 8, 30, 05

Kurdish Reprisal Attacks Against Assyrian Christians in Iraq  8, 27, 05

For Basra's Christians, Hussein era the good old days 8, 28, 05

Assyrian Restuarant in Chicago Reminds Iraqis of Home 8, 28. 05

Assyrians in Northern Iraq terrorized by the Kurdish Mlitia 8, 27, 05

Iraq's Proposed constitution could lead to fragmented state. 8, 27, 05

Conflicts between Kurds and the Shabak 8, 26, 05

New Iraq constitution may throw women's rights into Stone Age  8, 26, 05

Assyrians of Telesqof demonstrate against being divided in the Constitution 8, 25. 05

Assyrian Demonstrators Voice their Concern about the New Iraqi Constitution 8, 24, 05

A letter from the Rep.of Shabak in the National Assermbly  8, 24, 05

New Iraq constitution must protect Christians 8, 22, 05 

The text of the latest Proposed Iraq Constitution  8, 22, 05

Outside View: Who lost Iraq?  8, 22, 05

Iraq's Religious Minorities Concerned About Islamic Constitution 8, 22, 05  

Iraq TV's 'Cops' breaks new ground  8, 21, 05  

Young Catholics Gather in Baghdad  8, 20 05

Iraqis Squeezed Out By Kurdish Expansion, Muslim-Centric Constitution 8, 20, 05

A Memoradum from the Christians of Iraq to the Drafters of the Constitution. 8, 20, 05

Shafting Nineveh: The Fate of Iraqi Christians 8, 20, 05

Plea for Assyrian Christians and Iraqi minorities 8, 18, 05

Undemocratic aspects of the new Iraqi constitution draft 8, 17, 05

Iraqis vent rage on call-in TV after bombs kill 43 8, 17, 05

Iraq's Non-Muslims' Constitution Fears  8, 17, 05

Kurdish Gunmen Open Fire on Demonstrators in North Iraq 8, 16, 05

Their suffering continues 8, 14, 05

IRAQ: Focus on constitutional concerns 8, 14, 05

Photos form homeland  8, 14, 05

Despite Turmoil, Christians Place Faith in New Iraq 8, 13, 05 

Iraqi-American Translators: The Untold Story 8, 12, 05

Life in Ankawa 8, 12, 05

Why Torah's Hebrew script was Changed to the square Assyrian script 8, 11, 05

Assyrian Restaurant in Chicago  8, 10, 05

Speech at the Commonwealth Club of California By Fred Aprim 8, 10, 05

KURDS TAKE A HARD-LINE STANCE ON IRAQI CONSTITUTION  8, 10, 05

72nd Assyrian American National Convention   8, 09, 05

Unresolved Iraqi Constitutional Points  8, 09, 05

Information wanted for Upcoming Documentary about Iraqi women 8, 09, 05

Assyrian Objection to the Nationality Law 8, 06, 05

Iraqi Christians Remember Church Bombings One Year Later 8, 05 05

Looted history  8, 05, 05 

Book Release: Rosie Malek-Yonan's "The Crimson Field" 8, 05, 05 

Iraq Must Avoid a Rollback of Rights 8, 04, 05 

Nina Shea: Rule of law, rule of Islam  8, 4, 05

Iraqis in U.S. Won't Vote on Constitution 8, 03, 05

Bush's Global War on Christians 8, 01, 05

An Open Letter to Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I  8, 01, 05 

Democracy could struggle in Islamic Iraq  7, 30, 05

Assyrian Granny Shimmes's Contribution to Rendezvous of Civilizations 7, 29, 05

House amends funding bill to help Iraqi Christians 7, 29, 05

Iraq draft constitution fails to protect religious, human rights, USCIRF says  7, 29, 05

 

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