March 07, 2010. Sulamania, Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq. Tensions were high leading up to Iraq’s national parliamentary elections this past Spring. AUI-S (American University of Iraq- Sulaimania) sent out a number of emails to university faculty advising us to use caution during the election season. For weeks prior to the election the city was bursting with fliers, posters, banners and adorned cars with political candidates and party colors. For the handful of days prior to the election, the city was roaring with party sponsored trucks honking horns and waving flags.
On election day a number of my colleagues and I took a cab into the city to see what the atmosphere was like. I was a bit worried about the security situation but my fears soon turned out to be misplaced as my experience was very positive. There was a large security presence, with armored trucks and flak vest wearing, AK 47 toting security guards on nearly every other street block near voting stations. My co-workers and I got a brief tour of a voting station and it seemed to be extremely well run and efficient. Many of the voters were dressed to the nines, wearing their traditional Kurdish clothing and the atmosphere, at least in Sulaimania, was very upbeat.
I took this photo shortly after visiting the voting station on election day. I was passing by a group of elderly men in the street and asked these two if they minded if I took their photo. I think this photos does a decent job of capturing the atmosphere that day; proud of their cultural heritage and participating in democracy, though perhaps a bit warily.