In Iraq, a vote for the spirit of democracy

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 31, 2009 

BAGHDAD — Saturday's provincial elections might have brought hope to some.

But Salma Badrani cast a ballot of grief.

She voted for her late husband, Omar Farouq al Ani. On Thursday two days before the elections, her husband, the candidate from the Iraqi Accordance Front — the Sunni Arab coalition, was killed.

He'd hoped to win on Saturday. Instead his body is buried and Badrani sits in her father-in-law's home mourning. Outside his campaign poster hangs. His smiling face promises, "With us your life has value."

"I lost today not only a husband but a flag of Ameriyah," she said on Saturday her voice trembled, holding back tears. "He was like a mountain and I felt safe in his shade. I lost him as a person and we lost what was good in him for this country." Ameriyah is a Sunni neighborhood of Baghdad.

On Thursday while at work, Badrani received a call from her 12-year-old daughter.

"Mama, Baba is laying in the garage and he won't get up," she told her mother.

For a moment Badrani felt her heart stop and she ran. In the outdoor garage she found her husband in a pool of blood.

"I just don't know what I'm going to do," the mother of six said.

That Thursday night, the man known as Abu Abdullah got a call and told his children he'd be back. They waited and he didn't return.

His three-year-old son walked outside and spotted him slumped against his 1985 Nissan, the car he lovingly called his comrade. Then he fell.

The little boy rushed to his father and saw blood gush from his mouth. The children never heard a shot.

Neighbors gathered around the home.

"God is Great, God is great," they screamed. "Why did they kill this good man?"

Al Ani was the head of the local neighborhood council and he'd survived at least two assassination attempts. He is one of five candidates killed in the run-up to the elections. One of three Sunni Arab candidates was killed just on Thursday.

Like Badrani other widows mourn today.

Now there is only his funeral banner.

"To God we belong and to God we return," the banner says. It is white in honor of a martyr. Other banners are spread in the neighborhood mourning his death.

Despite his death, his wife, his friends and his family voted for him on Saturday.

"I voted today. I voted for Abu Abdullah," she said. "There is no future for the good men to work here. It is the strongest. The strongest will rule."

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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