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Obama Victory Inspiring To Many Iraqis
Whether they like him or not, something is stirred
By DANIEL W. SMITH 11/09/2008 04:15 AM ET
A Baghdad Newsstand
Photo: Daniel W. Smith
A Baghdad Newsstand

On a street in downtown Baghdad I often walk down, there is a small stand where a black man sells sodas and small packages of cookies and other snacks. We have smiled at each other several times, but he has never spoken to me, and appears quiet and reserved.

A few days ago, when he saw me passing by, his eyes grew wide, and he asked, “Amriki?”, wanting to know if I was American. When I answered that I was, a huge grin shone across his face. He put a fist upwards into the air and called out “Obama!”
I returned the gesture, and he stood up from his chair, his face absolutely beaming.

The image of America’s president elect can be seen on Iraqi newsstands everywhere, and almost everyone I meet asks me what I think of the election.

On November fifth, there were celebrations in cities around the world, and one of them was Basra. Dark-skinned Iraqis, who have made their home in and around the southern city for centuries, celebrated in the streets. There was music, food, and singing.

Aswat al-Iraq quoted Abdelhussein Abdelrazeq, leader of the Dark-Skinned People’s Movement in Basra province, who said: “I am so happy and I think it is the beginning of the end of the dark history. Obama has destroyed the chains of slavery at an extraordinary speed.”

In the same article, it was reported that the movement held a conference this summer in which it called on authorities to enact anti-racist legislation. On Wednesday, while celebrating, Abdelrazeq continued, “It is a victory for free people everywhere, not only the blacks. It is a victory for liberals all over the world.”

There is a chord that seems to have been struck in many Iraqis I speak to, even those who did not want Obama to win the election.

I have an Iraqi friend who is wary of Obama as a president, and had rooted for McCain. He told me today, “This is what we think is good about America. Even if there are problems for black people in America, Americans have proven to the world that they can change, and have an open mind. If he does a good job or not, it is still an important thing. That the American people can do this makes many people have hope.”

A moment after I passed the man selling the soda and snacks, I looked back, and he was still standing. He gazed straight ahead, as in deep thought, his beaming unabated.


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