By Brian Williams Anchor & “Nightly News” managing editor
NBC News
updated 1/26/2005 7:55:24 PM ET 2005-01-27T00:55:24

At first glance, it could be home, if home is Iraq. There are familiar smells, faces and places that remind the 400,000 Iraqis living here of the very place they fled.

"Iraqis come here for the security and the quiet life," says 32-year-old engineer Raid Abdul Jabar. "They feel tired with the situation after the war."

Raid made the 600-mile journey from Baghdad eight months ago. He and his countrymen seek each other's company in downtown Amman's newly named "Iraqi Triangle," where sometimes emotions run just as high as they do in the streets of Baghdad.

"Death to America! We have no food, no magazine no gas, nothing!" shouts one Iraqi man on an Amman street, drawing his finger across his throat.

But unlike Baghdad, Amman offers Iraqis the one thing they all desire: security.

"You hear a lot of Iraqis that are buying entire buildings either for investment purposes or relocation purposes," says Joumana Jallad Shanshal, editor-in-chief of Jordan Business Monthly.

Jordan has capitalized on that need for security, encouraging established Iraqis, like Ibrahim Lutfi, to move their businesses here. Lutfi says insurgents have made it too dangerous to do business in his native Iraq.

"Why I should pay money for somebody else to take my life? asks Lutfi. "I'm not interested, and my colleagues are not interested."

"We have a very open government which knows the priorities and the potential of the Iraqi market," says Shanshal. "So from the top you're seeing a lot of emphasis on Iraq."

But however welcoming, Jordan can never be home. So, on the eve of their country's historic election, many Iraqis here are lining up to participate in the vote, long-distance from Amman.

"The enthusiasm is enormous among the ones that come," says Peter Erben, director of the International Organization for Migration's registration and voting program. "It is quite spectacular to see groups come from Lebanon to Damascus to vote."

Still, for Raid Abdul Jabar, ingrained distrust and fear keep him from registering.

"We are scared too much. We don't trust anyone," he says.

While that pervasive fear has dampened voter turnout here in Amman, those who do turn up at the local polling stations are hopeful.

"To see peace in Iraq, to bring safety to Iraq, to see Iraq secure," answers one man when asked why he'll vote.

For one father, who brought his children to witness him registering to vote with their mother, the hope of a new Iraq was almost too much to bear.

"For me, for me and my children, I want peace. I want security," he says.

He hopes for peace, and this Sunday, for a vote, that he hopes, will matter.

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