The Kurds Referendum For Independence
By admin September 26, 2017

On Monday, September 24th, Iraqi Kurdistan carried out their referendum for an independence vote, with many packed into polling stations across the northern Iraq region. Of the 3.9 million eligible to vote, the electoral commission estimated the turnout at 72 percent, and the outcome is expected to produce a “yes,” despite many opposition within the region and from world leaders abroad.

The Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, with a population between 25-35 million inhabitants straddling the mountainous regions of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Armenia. Yet, they do not have a nation of their own. This stemmed mostly from the outcome of World War I, where many Kurds in the early 20th century desired to create a homeland, deemed Kurdistan, after the victorious Western allies made a provision for the Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. However, such hopes were dashed when the Treaty of Lausanne set boundaries for modern Turkey, but left the Kurds with no state of their own.  Left with minority status in their respective countries, any move to set up an independent state over the course of the next 80 years were quashed.

The brutality and mistreatment of the Kurds are driving forces in their movement to carry out the referendum. Many Kurds in northern Iraq can trace a family history stained by treachery and violence: the women and children killed in chemical attacks, Kurdish men detained and murdered, entire villages razed, and families banished to internment camps. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 4500 Kurdish villages were razed between 1977 and 1987, and more than 100,000 Kurds were executed during Mr.Hussein’s Anfal campaign in 1988.

In recent decades, Kurds have greatly influenced regional developments. In addition to fighting for autonomy in Turkey, they are also playing prominent roles in the conflicts between Iraq and Syria through resisting the advance of the Islamic State (IS). Their high involvement in the fight against IS stems from repeated attacks by the terrorist group in mid-2013, where IS sought to take control of three Kurdish enclaves that bordered its territory in northern Syria. The Kurds sent their own armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Unity Party to repel these attacks, and eventually they fought alongside a US-led coalition aimed to take stretch of territory along the Turkish border. Regardless of their common foe in IS, there is deep-seated hostility between the Turkish state and the country’s Kurds, with Turkey even refusing to allow Kurds to cross into the northern town of Kobane to launch an assault against IS in September 2014.

So far, Monday’s election has mostly drawn sharp criticism, with the United States, Iran, and Turkey, all vowing not to recognize the results, fearful that it is a dangerous step toward the division of the country. Tensions have escalated, with President Barzani of the Kurdish State declaring that the Kurd’s partnership with Iraq is finished. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned Iraq would take necessary steps to preserve unity, with similar worries to Turkey whereby an established Kurdish State would lead to uprising and destabilization in their own nations.

The UN Security Council has also warned of the potential for destabilization in the region due to the planned referendum on independence, and urged that all outstanding issues between the federal government and Kurdistan Regional Government to be resolved in accordance to the Iraqi constitution and structured dialogue. Regardless, for many Kurds, the referendum is a historic moment towards independence and self-realization.  Final results from the election are expected by Thursday, September 28th.


Further Reading:

Syrians vote in Kurdish-held northern region

Iraqi Kurds to Vote on Independence

Iraqi Kurdistan referendum/ High turnout in independence vote

Iraqi Kurdish referendum/ UN warns of ‘destabilising impact’

Who are the Kurds

Kurds in Iraq vote in historic independence referendum

Thanks for sharing !

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