first published in the New Statesman, Saturday 1st January 2005
Observations on Iraq. By Stephen Grey
On a cold winter’s night in Iraq, a young shopkeeper stands outside in the
driving rain, his storefront illuminated by a sputtering petrol gen-erator.
It is a flickering pool of light in a city of darkness. Basra has been
getting barely four hours of electricity a day – one year after the British
army announced the restoration of round-the-clock power.
The young owner, Mohamed Hussein, shows us a poster, plastered with a
picture of a Shia saint, that announces the Iraqi elections on 30 January.
As we talk, a Kalashnikov bullet echoes across the street. The British
soldiers with me drop down for cover. Hussein does not flinch. “There is not
a single person in this city that will not vote in January,” he says. “We
have waited all our lives for this moment.”
Talking to Shias in southern Iraq, you get the impression that however many
suicide bombers or assassins stalk the streets, they will cast their vote.
Their leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has ordered them to vote: they
will obey. Continue reading Shias wait for elections, or war