Video: Expatriates vote

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/29/2005 1:04:17 PM ET 2005-01-29T18:04:17

At the home of Ali Ziarah and Maha Balal, the historic day began early, with a special family breakfast.

For these Iraqi immigrants to Britain, it was the first time in their lives they would actually cast a vote in a free election.

“There is no word that can express what my feelings are actually,” said Maha Balal, as she cried. “I am very happy.”

On a cold, dreary day, three generations arrived together Friday at the London voting center, joining thousands of fellow Iraqis here in deciding the future of their homeland.

For Ali's stepson and a fellow Iraqi immigrant, Emad Abid Ali, it meant hope, not only for himself, but his infant daughter.

“She's growing up with no tyranny in Iraq. She's actually going to grow up, God willing, in a democratic country, where she doesn't have to hide her opinion at all, never!” Abid Ali said.

Political prisoner
For, Ali, who works as an office security guard, this day is even more unbelievable.

During the rule of Saddam Hussein, he was a political prisoner, having spent five years in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison before who eventually fled the country.

But, today things have changed.

“Now I can vote, and I am happy today,” said Ziarah.

At the registration table, the family members presented voter cards and passports. In addition, for security, they dipped their fingers in purple ink.

When the family arrived at the voting booths, they faced a lengthy ballot, with 111 candidates and political parties. They were allowed to vote for just one.

When the moment came, everyone knew what to do. They had studied the candidates, and cast their vote. 

And then, with the drop of a ballot, it was official.

“I think this is the future for us, and for our children, and grandchildren, and their grandchildren, as well,” said Balal.

It was something Ali, his father, and grandfather had never done before.

Heading home, these Iraqi immigrants knew they had just made history, for themselves and their children.

NBC's Mark Potter is on assignment in London.

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