Yalies celebrate Iraqi democracy

Students removed their gloves on a wintry Tuesday to dip their fingers in blue ink and show their support for the Iraqi people who bear a similar purple ink stain on their right index finger after voting in Iraq’s first democratic election in 50 years.

Yale College Students for Democracy organized the finger dying on Cross Campus Tuesday afternoon as a way to commemorate the election and celebrate the high Iraqi voter turnout. YCSD Vice President for Communication Keith Urbahn ’06 said that over 200 students dipped their fingers on their way to class or lunch.

The idea for the event originated from Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, an online blog, where a reader suggested using blue ink to dye fingers to show support for the Iraqis, YCSD President Jamie Kirchick ’06 said. He said other YCSD members were particularly enthusiastic about the suggestion because it is a positive activity rather than a protest.

“You have naysayers who say Iraq is Vietnam, which is a claim that is particularly absurd,” Kirchick said. “The fact that it was an election, the fact that people would still go out to polls, brave bombs and gunfire just to put a ballot in a box, is the [strongest] psychological message to the terrorists.”

Urbahn and Kirchick are columnists for the Yale Daily News.

Though about five students approached organizers to express dissenting opinions or to propose views that the election in Iraq was not legitimate, Urbahn said for the most part even those who took an anti-war stance were largely receptive to YCSD’s efforts.

“It would be naive to say everyone who saw us went along with it,” Urbahn said. “It’s a hassle for people to have to take off their gloves. It’s kind of messy. But overall, people understood what we were doing and why we were doing it.”

Kirchick said that while YCSD is a non-partisan organization, it is still criticized by students for seeming to push the Bush administration’s agenda.

“People who didn’t get ink, didn’t do so because they are bitter towards Bush,” Kirchick said. “They can’t bring themselves to rejoice for a moment that I consider as big as the crumbling of the Berlin Wall or the Tiananmen Square uprising, a moment that signifies success for Bush and for this country, I think.”

Yale Coalition for Peace member Ishann Tharoor ’06 said the election was a success, but he does not think that the election justified the invasion.

“I think it’s important to remember these elections weren’t benevolently granted, but were disputed for a year and a half of Iraqi occupation,” Tharoor said.

But Urbahn said the YCSD event was not a general declaration in support of the war, but rather a way to recognize the spread of democracy.

“We believe war in Iraq ultimately brings about better change, bringing democracy in the Middle East,” Urbahn said. “But to say that we’re pro war is a wrong perception. There have been times when members thought war could be good thing, but in cases of Iran and North Korea, there could be better alternatives, and the war was not really the issue why we supported Iraq. Ultimately it’s about democracy over tyranny.”

Those who turned out to dip their fingers said they did so to show support for the Iraqi people and did not have political motivations.

“I think it’s for a good cause, or at least harmless,” Gary DeTurck ’08 said. “I don’t think it carries any political connotations. I don’t see how someone can be against the democratic process.”

Yale College Students for Democracy is a relatively new group, dating back to February 2003. In March of that year, as the war in Iraq began, the group hosted a rally on Beinecke Plaza in support of U.S. troops.

A student dips his finger in blue ink to show support for the Iraqi election in a Cross Campus demonstration.
Michael Blank
A student dips his finger in blue ink to show support for the Iraqi election in a Cross Campus demonstration.

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