January 27, 2005

KURDS IN NASHVILLE:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) For years, the thousands of Kurds living in Nashville have blended into the city’s immigrant community in relative anonymity.

But now they are in the spotlight with Iraq’s national elections that begin Friday and run through Sunday. Nashville is one of five American cities where Iraqi expatriates can vote, and nearly 4,000 of them are registered here more than Los Angeles and Washington. Detroit and Chicago have more. . . .

Many are thrilled to have a chance to vote in a real election without fear of reprisal.

”The ballot before had Saddam Hussein yes or no and if you put no, the bodyguard took you to the jail,” said Ali Almoumineen, 38, who left Iraq with his wife and two children in 1999. He isn’t Kurdish, but found a home in the community nonetheless.

Kurdish expert Michael Gunter, a professor at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville and author of six books on the people of Northern Iraq, said the Kurds who moved to Nashville were comforted by the anonymity of the Music City.

”You can sort of go about the business of becoming an American in Nashville easier than Washington, New York or California, where things are more politicized,” Gunter said. ”Many Kurds just wanted to start a new life and emphasize the private things not keep fighting the public battles.”

I’ve known a few Kurds in Knoxville whose families were in Nashville.

UPDATE: Here’s a report on Iraqis voting in Australia — and on who showed up to protest.