Southgate, Mich. Adim Altalibi struggled to hold back tears Friday after voting in an Iraqi election for the first time. All he could think about were his five nephews, all killed under Saddam Hussein's regime.
"We lost a lot of our young men and women struggling against Saddam Hussein. It's paid off now," said Altalibi, 55, an engineer who left Iraq in 1987 and cast his ballot Friday at a suburban Detroit voting site that was once a home-improvement store.
Altalibi was one of hundreds of Iraqis who streamed into polling places in five U.S. cities Friday, the first day they could vote in their homeland's election. Nearly 26,000 people have registered to vote in five U.S. metropolitan areas with heavy Iraqi populations: Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, Tenn., Los Angeles and Washington. Tens of thousands more are expected to vote in 13 other countries during balloting that runs through Sunday.
In Iraq and around the globe, the voting has been a cause for jubilation among Iraqis who have long been tormented by Saddam, but the threat of violence is still present. Insurgents bent on disrupting the election process have killed U.S. soldiers set off suicide car bombs, assassinated officials and bombed polling places.
Isho Mishail, 40, who was voting at the Chicago polling place, said it was important for him to vote because he did not know if his relatives in Iraq would have the same luxury.
Insurgents "went to the houses and threatened them, 'If you go to the polls, we'll kill everyone in the house,'" Mishail said.
To be eligible to participate, voters had to be born in Iraq or have an Iraqi father. They also had to have turned 18 by Dec. 31.