'This is a moment I feel the liberation of Iraq'

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The Independent Online

More than 20,000 British Iraqis have registered their vote for Iraqi's first democratic elections in the past week.

More than 20,000 British Iraqis have registered their vote for Iraqi's first democratic elections in the past week.

Expatriates from across the UK travelled to voting centres in London, Manchester and Glasgow in an out-of-country voting programme organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and spanned 14 countries.

Serwan Ahmed, an Iraqi Kurd who witnessed the extermination of his village in northern Iraq during Saddam Hussein's reign, arrived at Wembley conference centre to register his vote on his wedding day. He fled his homeland five years ago and hopes to return.

"No one can force us to vote for one person or another," he said. "We are free people now and this is a moment in which I feel the liberation of the Iraqi people. There have been many elections in my time in Iraq but I had no choice in them."

Ali, an estate agent from Middlesex, added: "The last regime was not representative of Iraqis. It was representative of animals in human form. I hope this will represent the true glory of Iraqi people. I know there is someone coming to give us a better life."

Hind Alawi Amin, 38, whose husband is in Iraq, helping reconstruction in Baghdad, said registering was an emotional and overwhelming moment for many who had fled the Baathist regime. "I never imagined I would be voting for my country one day," she said. "I hope we will have a new, better Iraq for our children."

Sarah Fradgley, IOM's head of media relations, said Iraqis had been eagerly waiting to register and busloads had travelled to London from Wales and Brighton. "They had been waiting for this for a long time. It gives so many a stake, for the first time, in their country."

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