Iraq is holding its first presidential election since U.S. troops pulled out in 2011. And one of the polling places is a Dallas hotel.
North Texas is home to about 5,000 Iraqis, some of whom are new arrivals like Masdi Altimimi. He’s from Wasit, Kut in Eastern Iraq.
“Peace, peace middle east,” Altimimi said. “I need happiness in my country, like you guys, freedom.”
He left the Dallas polling station with his 4-year-old daughter. She wore pigtails, and a headband with a big pink flower. She had her little index finger up, ready to ink it, as proof that her daddy voted.
“Nobody bother me,” he said. “Nobody tell me do this one. I do myself. I choice, nobody choice. All people go vote. You need good government, good vice president, good people. Make happy for every people.”
Rebar Amissouri is the coordinator of the Dallas Iraqi election center. He’s been overwhelmed by Iraqi voters in the last two days.
“Austin, Houston, Oklahoma, New Mexico,” he said. “They want the address, the time, people driving, what time you closing?”
The center’s been open since Sunday. Pointing to the little girl, Amissouri says her life would have been different under Saddam Hussein.
“This girl will be in a camp right now," he said. "Running in a different country, in a refugee tent, running from the dictatorship, or her dad will be in a jail, and nobody supported her.”
It’s already been a bloody few days in Baghdad, as suicide bombers have attacked some polling stations there. Maytham Thamer worked as an interpreter for American forces in Iraq. He now calls Fort Worth home, and has only been in the U.S. for two years.
“Make me respect myself," Thamer said. "That I’m doing something good. I’m trying to choose people that I think are good for Iraq.”
Ahmed Alhamandani and Huda Alsudani are from Baghdad, but now live in Irving.
“We vote for the future of Iraq," he said. "Ask for the best for our country.”
Asked about what it means to vote in Iraq’s general election, Alsudani says: “For sure, it’s very special, and we hope that this will lead to better peace and development.”
She begins to tear up. Then she adds that she wants to end the violence -- that’s all she wants.