Kurds to vote on independence from Iraq in 2016

Kurds to vote on independence from Iraq in 2016
3 min read
07 January, 2016
The president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region has told diplomats that Erbil intends to hold a referendum on secession from Baghdad this year.
Iraqi Kurdistan has enjoyed relative prosperity and stability, but this has recently been threatened [Anadolu]
Iraq's Kurdish region could vote to secede from Baghdad this year, in the latest effort by Erbil to gain independence from Iraq.

Masoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, reportedly told a number of diplomats that Erbil intends to hold a referendum "to let the world know what the people of Kurdistan want".

Analysts believe this is a not so veiled reference to a vote on Kurdish independence from Iraq.

"A referendum is the only way for the world to know what the people of Kurdistan want and how they will determine their future," a statement from the president's office read, obtained by The New Arab's Arabic service,

"Fulfilling the will of the Kurdistani people will take place in the appropriate time and in a non-violent, peaceful manner," it added.

The implication from Barzani's statement is that the five million people of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region would likely vote in favour of independence and break away from Baghdad.

The referendum would be the second of its kind since 2005.

Ten years ago an informal referendum on independence in Kurdistan saw an overwhelming majority vote in favour of separating from the majority Arab nation.
We have always stressed it would be the people of the liberated regions themselves to decide their future through referendum, and their wishes will be respected
- Masoud Barzani


Barzani also said that the Kurdish government would not impose its will on areas disputed between Erbil and Baghdad.

Kurdish Peshmerga military forces have been fighting Islamic State group militants in the north of the country, and captured territories with Arab majority populations.

"We have always stressed it would be the people of the liberated regions themselves to decide their future though a referendum, and their wishes will be respected," he said.

The president of the KRG called on the Iraqi government to engage with Kurdistan to find new ways to coexist peacefully.

"It is important to have real partnership between the two sides...to avoid repeating the tragedies of the past,"  Barzani added.

Barzani, during his meeting with diplomats who included representatives from Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Kuwait, and the UAE as well as the five permanent UN Security Council members, also tackled the tough economic conditions in Kurdistan.

"Baghdad's cutting of the KRG budget, lower oil prices, the expenses of the war on terror and the hosting of more than 1.8 million displaced Iraqis are the main causes of the financial crisis in the KRG," Barzani told the diplomats.

Barzani admitted there were internal problems between political parties in the Kurdistan region, but stressed they can all be resolved. 

In truth, not all Kurdish political parties and figures are in favour of independence for a variety of reasons, including fear of giving Barzani too much power in an independent Kurdistan.

Pro-independence Kurdish politicians have already launched campaigns to promote independence from Iraq.

There have been reports of efforts to hire PR companies to lobby influential capitals to their cause, as well as reports of border demarcation efforts underway as reported by The New Arab recently.

Neighbouring countries with sizeable Kurdish populations of their own are generally opposed to an independent Kurdish state along their borders, fearing the 30 million Kurds in Iran, Turkey and Syria would then seek the same.