Prague - On Sunday 7 March, Iraqi citizens will elect their representatives, the third parliamentary elections since Saddam Hussein was deposed by the US invasion in 2003. There will be approximately 50 thousand polling stations set up in Iraq's 18 provinces. As much as 70 percent of Iraq's 19 million legitimate voters are expected to attend the polls.
However, the Iraqi living abroad will have the opportunity to cast their ballots too - at Iraqi embassies in 16 cities all over the world.
Prague is not among them though, so Czech Iraqis, or the Iraqi settled in the Czech Republic, will have to go to Vienna - the Iraqi embassy in the Austrian capital is the closest polling station for them.
Hundreds of Iraqi in the Czech Republic
Aladin Sabih, an Iraqi who moved to Prague in 1975, is organizing a bus trip to Vienna. „Unfortunately, due to financial reasons it was not possible to set up a polling station at Prague's embassy, so we have to go to Vienna. There will be roughly 50 of us, and some Iraqi who live in Brno will join us on the way," Sabih said to Aktuálně.cz.
Sabih estimates there are several hundred Iraqis living in the Czech Republic. He himself knows about 250 Czech Iraqis.
„For years, we have been meeting with some Iraqis in the restaurant U Pešků. The staff jokes about Al-Qaeda meeting at their place," Aladin Sabih says, laughing. However, due to the reconstruction works taking place at U Pešků, the group had to found a new shelter in other Prague's restaurant, U Hasičů.
"Security in Iraq? It is getting better"
According to Sabih, the situation in his homeland is getting better and everybody is more optimistic than a few years ago.
„The progress is slow, but I believe that Iraq is, step by step, getting out of the worst. But after so many years of dictatorship, you cannot expect miracles. The situation was terrible in 2006 and 2007, with terror and violence on a daily basis. Now it is better," says Sabih.
In spite of the improved security situation in Iraq, strong precautionary measures will be adopted on Sunday - for example, cars and motorcycles will be banned from going to the city centers and into the proximity of polling stations.