There are many ways both personal and public that people can assert themselves. But today, in Iraq, it is through voting, taking hopeful, courageous action in the face of conflict and violence. I believe in democracy as a force for freedom and prosperity and justice, and I wish all that in abundance for the deserving men and women, old and young who braved today's journey to the ballot box.
There are varied stories about people who were victimized by the old regime or as a result of the continuing violence committing themselves to this exercise of human will and the pursuit of a sovreign nation. Among all these, the plentiful participation of women as candidates, election workers, and voters has been one of the most encouraging for me to see. Here's a touching example from Kaled, a blogger from Bagdad:
How exciting it was to see this old woman, supported by her grand children for a distance of more than 400 meters, coming to do something she wanted so badly to do for 50 years, that is to choose whoever she wants, without pressures or conditions. When I asked her: did you vote? She answered strongly: yes, my son. I asked her: Don’t you get tired walking all this distance? She said: it is an effort that for me is a rest, because it was a dream to choose whoever I want. I never had the right to choose, even when they asked me to marry, because the decision then was not in my hands. And today is the day in which I can offer a service to my country and do something that my sons and grandsons will be proud of and will ensure a good future for the country.
Democracy isn't merely an arbitrary selection from a geopolitical menu. Freedom to participate, to contribute, to be valued, and to decide is the necessity of the human soul.