Iraqi Kurds affirm referendum for independence

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Erbil old city centre, Iraqi Kurdistan. Representational file photo

ARA News

The president of Iraqi Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani on Wednesday announced that the Iraqi Kurds will hold a referendum for Kurdish independence on 25 September this year.

“I am pleased to announce that the date for the independence referendum has been set for Monday, September 25, 2017,” President Barzani said.

According to officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdish presidency held a meeting today with the representatives of the political parties across the Kurdistan Region. The meeting did not included the Kurdistan Islamic Group led by Ali Bapir, nor the Kurdish opposition party Gorran, whose leader recently passed away.

“During the meeting, President Barzani and the attendees discussed several salient issues including the upcoming parliamentary elections, the current political and economic situations and the issue of the independence referendum,” the Kurdish presidency said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The President, along with the representatives of the political parties and slates decided that the date for the independence referendum shall be Monday, September 25, 2017. It will be on that day when the people of the Kurdistan Region, as well as those living in the disputed areas, will cast their votes on whether they accept independence for Kurdistan,” the statement said.

Hemin Hawrami, the senior assistant to President Masoud Barzani, said that the Kurdish president asked the election commission to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in Kurdistan on time, before 6 Nov 2017.

Furthermore, he added that the referendum will include the so-called disputed territories that have been mostly controlled by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces since June 2014, after the Iraqi army fled ISIS offensives in Mosul, despite setbacks in August 2014, when ISIS attacked and took Sinjar and other areas, which have almost all been taken back since last year, apart from south Sinjar.

“Referendum on 25/9/2017 is for Iraqi Kurdistan including Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Sinjar and Makhmour. The question is: Do you want an independent Kurdistan?,” Hawrami said.

The Kurdish opposition party Gorran called for reactivating the parliament before the legality of the parliament expires in September, and therefore boycotted Barzani’s meeting on the referendum.

The Gorran party, while not member of the referendum committee, said they will call their supporters to vote yes in the Kurdish independence referendum, while voting for Gorran and against the KDP during the presidential and parliamentary elections that will take place before November 2017.

“It’s an insult that we need to fiind out if the people want a state or not, we refuse to be part of the committee,” said Mohammad Tofiq Rahim, the director of external relations of Iraqi Kurdistan’s largest opposition grouping Movement for Change (Gorran), in an exclusive interview with ARA News.

“Although we are not part of the committee, we encourage everyone to vote yes, and we want a Kurdish state, including the disputed territories like Kirkuk and Khanaqin,” he said.

The Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) has a similar position.

Both Turkey and Iran have opposed an independence referendum, however, the Iraqi Kurds say that the regional countries should not interfere in the region’s affairs.

“We don’t interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, and we expect others to respect the Kurdistan region and also not medde in our internal affairs,” the Kurdish Regional Government’s (KRG) foreign relations head Falah Mustafa Bakir said during a conference at the Kurdistan University of Hawler on 24 May.

“When we talk about a referendum, we talk about Kurdistan in Iraq only,” he said in a message to the neighbouring countries that have their own Kurdish populations, and fear Kurdish independence will inspire their own Kurds to seek more independence.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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