Two weeks after his finger marked a historic Iraqi ballot, Freeport's Khadhim Al-Inezi is still soaking in his homeland's political transformation.
"Even my finger, I don't want to wash my finger. I still have the color, even that, it means big things to me. I'm so happy, still so happy," Al-Inezi said.
Iraq's new beginning took on a new chapter Sunday, with the confirmed January 30 election results. Of the 8.5 million people who cast their ballot, the United Iraq Alliance, a party mainly of Shiites and other minority groups, racked in nearly half of the total vote. Area Iraqis, who voted for the UIA in Chicago last month, believe the party will bring their ethnic nation together.
"All kinds of religion, all kinds of different thinking people; we got a Muslims, Christians, we got differences, Muslims, Shiites, we've got everyone in this group, so this is the right group to build the new country," Al-Inezi said.
But even with Iraq's new national assembly moving forward, there are concerns the Sunni Arabs will increase insurgent attacks. Freeport Iraqis admit while they fear future violence, they believe newly elected officials will strive for peace and unity.
"Iraq, he needs that. We need one big happy family. Like I say, we don't need differences between the Kurds and Shiites and Sunnis," Naem Al-Khalifawi said.
Despite some Arabs criticizing the elections as doing more harm than good, local Iraqis remain confident and proud of their new democracy's accomplishments.
"I disagree with that because now Iraq has more freedom than any place in the Middle East," Al-Khalifawi said.
It’s the gift of freedom, which marches on in Iraq with freshly minted elected officials and excited natives thousands of miles away.
Iraq's elected national assembly has until August 15 to write the nation's new constitution. Once the constitution is complete, it will go to a national referendum for an October vote.