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For Proud Minority, a 'Very Happy' Day

To some extent, the Kurdish region already feels like its own place. The apparently high voter turnout here was due, in part, to the relative security this part of the country enjoys after 13 years of semi-autonomy from the rest of Iraq.

Although security was extremely tight at polling centers, voters expressed little fear that insurgents would target them. After voting, many people lingered around the polls for hours to talk with neighbors and friends. Except for authorized vehicles, the streets in Irbil and the highways leading into the city were free of traffic, but the sidewalks were filled with people celebrating.

Atya Ismail, 90, is lifted to cast her ballot at a polling station near the Kurdish mountain village of Salahuddin in northern Iraq. Many traveled far to vote. (Jackie Spinner -- The Washington Post)

_____More on Elections_____
Photo Gallery: The end of Iraq's Election Day brought indications of strong turnout, but also reports of at least 30 people killed.
Live, 11 a.m. ET: Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid will discuss the elections and the latest news from Iraq.
Transcript: The Post's Jackie Spinner discussed the scene in Irbil, where elation at electing a new Kurdish parliament has Kurds partying in the streets.

At a polling place in the center of the city, Camaran Fathi, 45, directed 39 volunteers who showed up to help stage the elections. Some had brought kerosene heaters from their homes to warm the private community center where the vote was taking place.

"We hope we will have many representatives in the government and not just a few," he said.

A volunteer interrupted him. "What do I do with this?" the woman asked, holding a plastic bottle of purple powder. No one had told Fathi or the volunteers that they had to mix the powder with water to make the indelible ink used to identify people who had already voted. "I have no idea," Fathi told her. "Do you know?" he asked a visitor.

"They didn't tell us anything," Fathi said. "We don't know who our supervisors are. This hall is too small for the elections. We have no food. We do not know how long we will have to stay."

At another polling center in a snowy mountain village outside Salahuddin, Shukrani, a 26-year-old Kurdish soldier who said he was not allowed to give his last name, stood in line for nearly two hours to vote. "We are very happy," he said. "The future of our nation rests on these elections. For years, we have made many sacrifices. This is the fruit of the blood of our martyrs."

Inside, Zubaida Muhammad, 51, broke into a huge grin as she slid her ballot into the box. "For many years, we have not had free elections," she said. "We want a free, independent Kurdistan. We want Mr. Massoud Barzani to be president."

Special correspondents Sarok Abdulla Ahmed and Shereen Jerjes contributed to this report.

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