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Voices From Iraq: 'Democracy Requires Sacrifice'

Sunday, January 30, 2005; 6:59 PM

Following are reports on Sunday's election in Iraq from Washington Post reporters and special correspondents across the country.


Special correspondent Salih Saif Aldin in Tikrit: A rumor spread here that anyone who did not vote would lose his or her food rations. But that did nothing to boost turnout in ousted president Saddam Hussein's home town.

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"It is a very weak participation in Tikrit," said Khalaf Muhammed, 43, the electoral commission official in charge of a polling station in the city's center -- who acknowledged spreading the false rumor to try to lure voters.

"Even though we spread a rumor in the city saying anyone who doesn't vote will be deprived of their food ration, only 10 people voted . . . mostly old men."

The rumor about food rations also was rife in the Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad, gaining credence because voter registration rolls were taken from centralized records for the ration of rice, flour, oil and other staples.


Special correspondent Bassam Sebti in Baghdad: At the Fine Arts Institute for Girls, in the upscale neighborhood of Mansour, about 40 people, some with children, gathered at a polling station soon after it opened. About 20 policemen patrolled outside, manning checkpoints at the end of the street and near the station itself. Blasts could be heard in the distance, but the mood was festive.

"We wanted to be the first to vote here," said Amir Mahmoud Jawad, 18, a high school student. "This is our country. We have to do it. There should be no excuse for anyone not to come. These elections will decide the destiny of the country."


Correspondent Steve Fainaru in Mosul: Sunni areas of Mosul, 220 miles north of Baghdad, were among the low-to-no-turnout districts. At four polling stations visited in the southeastern part of the city during the afternoon, four voters were seen.

Two of the polling places reported they had been attacked in the past 24 hours. One had been mortared. Another had taken small arms fire.

An improvised explosive was found at a mosque around the corner from one of the polling stations. The device apparently had been planted right after Iraqi security forces used a loud speaker in the mosque to try to encourage people in the neighborhood to vote, urging them not to be scared.

In the first three hours at another polling place in Mosul, 15 members of the Iraqi security forces were the only voters to cast their ballots.

At one point, U.S. troops raided al Sabrine Mosque in search of a suspected insurgent just after noon prayers and detained 35 worshipers in the mosque courtyard.

Dressed in their military gear, the troops then started searching homes, asking people about voting as they did. People responded they were too frightened to vote.


Special correspondent Khalid Saffar in Baghdad: Unlike the barren scene at some polling stations in Sunni areas, there was a veritable crowd at the voting place in the capital's Karrada neighborhood, which is predominantly Shiite.

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