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Hundreds Of Iraqis In San Diego Cast Overseas Vote In Parliamentary Election

Above: Iraqis in San Diego cast their overseas ballot at the Crystal Ballroom in El Cajon for Iraq's parliamentary election, April 28, 2014.

Hundreds of San Diego Iraqis cast their overseas ballot on Sunday and Monday at the Crystal Ballroom in El Cajon. It's the first parliamentary election of their home country since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.

San Diego has one of the largest populations of Iraqi refugees in the U.S. — many resettled to the region during the decade-long Iraq War that started in 2003.

Inas Abdulridha first fled to North Africa with her family during the war and moved to San Diego last year. She said she came to vote to be a voice for her relatives who are still living in her home country.

"All of us, we dream," said Abdulridha, "and look forward to getting better lives for everybody."

The majority of the 80,000 Iraqis who call San Diego home are Chaldean Christians, but many others are Muslim and Kurdish, said Ben Kalasho, president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce.

Kalasho said, differences aside, people feel empowered this election because it’s the first since the U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011.

"They feel like this is an opportunity to vote for the person they feel has their best interest at heart, rather than maybe American influence or any other neighboring country’s influence," said Kalasho.

All Iraqi-born people living in the U.S. are eligible to vote. Iraq will host its election Wednesday amid the worst spate of violence the country has seen in years.

The elections will decide the 328 members of the Council of Representatives who will in turn elect the Iraqi President and Prime Minister.

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