November 2, 2004


Iraqi Kurds back Bush: They may not know what the Republican Party is, but Sulaimaniyah residents are staunchly in favour of its leader. (Sirwan Ghareeb, 01-Nov-04, Kurdish Media)

As the United States presidential election approached, George Bush and John Kerry were still neck and neck in the polls – unless, of course, you count those carried out in Sulaimaniyah, in the Kurdish area of north-eastern Iraq. Here Bush would be assured of a runaway victory.

As in the rest of Iraq, people here may still not be enjoying the lifestyle and freedoms they had hoped would follow the end of Saddam Hussein’s rule, and many are openly critical of US policy. But in Sulaimaniyah, most of the people interviewed by IWPR are rooting for Bush to win a second term.

“Bush saved us from Saddam, the dictator who killed two of my sons. That’s why I’ll be very glad if he stays on as president,” commented Arif Faqe Rasheed, 71, who sells lottery tickets in front of Sulaimaniyah’s cinema. Arif’s fellow-vendors nodded in agreement.

After the fall of the Saddam regime, people began selling photos of Bush in the Kurdish areas, and sales of his picture now rival those of local leaders such as Jalal Talabani.

“Most of the people in this city love Bush and hope he’ll win the election,” said Markosa Kamal Abdulkareem, an 18-year-old photo shop employee. “When Saddam was captured last year, a lot of people came to buy Bush pictures.”

In Sulaimaniyah, Democratic candidate John Kerry is seen as the man who opposed the invasion of Iraq – although he did in fact vote for the war – a mistaken perception which instantly quashes any appeal he might have for people here.

“We love Bush because he crushed Saddam for our sake,” says tailor Diler Omer, striking a table to emphasise his point.

Message from Shiraz: "Please let everyone know that most every young Iranian supports George Bush" (Slater Bakhtavar, November 2, 2004,
Few can forget President Bush's State of the Union speech in 2002 where he bluntly labeled the Iranian government alongside Iraq and North Korea as the world's leading advocates of terrorism. Not surprisingly immediately following the controversial speech Mideast experts, journalists, and politicians spewed forth an anchorage of viewpoints regarding its effects on the battle for the soul of Iran.

Predominately all leftist liberals contented support for democratic movements within the country aided the hard-line Islamists establishment while American conservatives strongly dissented arguing the exact opposite. Contrary to various propaganda polls inside of Iran drastically sided with the latter.

In polls stationed by reformists within the country, 75 percent of Iranians favor relations with the United States, 58 percent favor a separation of Mosque and State, 74 percent favor a referendum supporting a change of regime, and perhaps most importantly 52 percent of Iranians feel that Bush administration policy on Iran is 'somewhat correct'.

In 2003, President Bush once again renewed his support for the Iranian people. This time with a deeper sense of urgency and depth. "The government of Iran represses its people. Iranian citizens are risking intimidation and death to speak out for liberty, human rights, and democracy. Iranians have a right to choose their own government, and determine their own destiny -- and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom."

In a message separating the good natured people of Iran with the government, the President won the hearts and minds of many Iranians demonstrating for human rights, democracy, and freedom against a ruthless dictatorship.

Imagine how worried you'd be if you were a democrat in the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 2, 2004 9:22 AM
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