Ayn Sifni, Iraq -- This is the voice of a crowd of Sheykhan [known also as Ayn Sifni] district, situated between Dahuk and Mosul governorates, the inhabitants of which protested today against [the fact that] they could not participate in the Iraqi elections yesterday. All inhabitants of Sheykhan [district] -- Yezidis, Muslims, and Christians -- took part in the demonstrations. Tahsin-beg, the prince of Yezidis all over the world whose residence is here [in Sheykhan], called on the Iraqi government through our radio station:
Tahsin-beg: To the Iraqi government, in Iraq. To the U.S. embassy. To the British embassy. To the embassies of all countries. We, [the people of] Sheykhan district -- Yezidis, Muslims, and Christians -- were waiting in flocks to elect whom we wished. Up to now, no ballot box has come where the flocks of people could cast their votes. All the people are upset because they could not participate in the elections. I ask the officials from the [Iraqi] Highest [Independent Electoral] Commission to investigate in the matter.
RFI: Imam of the mosque in Sheykhan, Mullah Yunis, also expressed his regret with the following words:
Mullah Yunis: We, the flocks of people from Sheykhan district, have gathered today in Sheykhan in order to deliver our voices to the whole world because we have been deprived of our rights -- from long ago up to this day. In the eighties, we were deprived of our right of everything, in all spheres of life. We were deprived of our economic, political, and social rights. We were not left the right of anything. Instead of these rights, we were given only banishment, killing, and genocide. Now, we all were expecting this moment [of elections], the happiest moment for Kurdistan and for Iraq, but we were very regrettably deprived of this historic opportunity to cast our votes in these moments. Very regrettably, we were deprived of this right and we could not cast our votes. That is why we demand from all international institutions to deliver our voice to the world because we were deprived of this right.
RFI: Dr. Basil Joqi, head of Sheykhan district, spoke about the number of people who were deprived of voting:
Joqi: We would like that our voice reaches through your radio station all whom it may concern so that those who stood behind this negligence of not sending ballot boxes to Sheykhan district are made liable for that. Today, masses of people of Sheykan district have taken part in demonstrations and protests against those who had caused the ballot boxes to not arrive, demanding severe punishment for them. They also demanded that Sheykhan district become a part of Kurdistan [autonomous] region and that the current administrative division be changed. Thank you.
RFI: Colonel Salim Salih Salim, police commander in Sheykhan, spoke about the security situation in Sheykhan township yesterday:
Salim: It was possible for us to go to Ninawah governorate [headquarters, of which Sheykhan is a part] and bring ballot boxes to Sheykhan district. We all -- both from Sheykhan township and from the village complexes under the administration of Sheykhan district -- were ready to participate in that. So there is no excuse for them [the electoral commission] that the road was not secured. The way was secured from us to Mosul. The National Guard, the police, and even some peshmerga [Kurdish militiamen] were along the road. There can be no excuse in this. They brought the ballot boxes [to Mosul] and we were ready [to take them over]. But the [ballot] boxes did not reach Sheykhan district.
RFI: In the end, we interviewed one of the observers who was about to perform surveillance over the process of elections. He told us the following:
Salim: In fact, we are from the United Nations High Commissioner [for Refugees] and especially from the IOM [International Organization for Migration]. [We were here] to follow and observe how the elections are conducted in the area of Sheykhan and some villages. Very regrettably, it happened what happened. We went out yesterday in the morning, at five a.m., to expect [the arrival of] the ballot boxes. Election centers had been specified and all security measures in the area adopted. We had an instant and direct [telephone] connection with the [Iraqi Highest Independent Electoral] Commission. But some kind of negligence, or unexpected development of the matters, has happened and caused embarrassment to us. We have started to examine the reasons of the delay of [ballot] boxes.
RFI: The administration of Sheykhan district issued in the name of the demonstrating people a statement, a copy of which we received, demanding that Sheykhan district be attached to the Kurdistan [autonomous] Region and prosecuting those responsible for [the fact that] ballot boxes did not arrive.
By Abdulkhaliq Sultan
RFI correspondent in Dahuk
RFI also Issued the following report on 31 January:
In the morning of Monday [31 January], mass demonstrations erupted in Ayn Sifni township, an administrative center of a district [qada'] some 45 kilometers north of Mosul. The demonstration protested against [the fact that many] people from the township and the district were deprived of voting because ballot boxes were not sent to the township. Dilshad Nu'man Farhan, a member of the Yezidi Kurdish Cultural Center Lalish and a member of the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate told Radio Free Iraq that some 74, 000 inhabitants of the district have the right to vote. Despite that, and even after [initial] protests from citizens, only 40, 000 [sets of] ballot papers were sent to the district and only one single polling station was opened for 50, 000 voters, which is unfeasible for properly conducting the elections.
Also Ba'shiqa township, which is an administrative center of a county (nahiya) close to the Maqlub mountain some 15 kilometers east of Mosul, witnessed mass demonstrations yesterday evening in a protest against [the fact that] ballot boxes and ballot papers were not sent to the township and the villages of its county. Some protesters, overcome by their strong anger, were pulling down the Iraqi flag from some government buildings.
In Sinjar, a district [qada'] on Iraqi-Syrian borders inhabited mainly by Kurds, protests and unrest have also appeared after ballot boxes and ballot papers were not sent to the district. Today, a demonstration in this matter has been organized by activists from two main Kurdish political parties -- the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. They told Radio Free Iraq that not providing ballot boxes and ballot papers to four Kurdish districts in Mosul governorate [officially called Ninawah] was an intentional act that they described as an anti-Kurdish conspiracy.
On a related level, representatives of six Kurdish parties are to meet today at noontime with government representatives in the headquarters [of the governor] of Ninawah governorate in order to discuss the shortcomings that accompanied the electoral process in Mosul governorate.
By Ahmad Said
RFI correspondent in Mosul
Compiled by Kathleen Ridolfo
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty