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Rudaw

Kurdistan

President Barzani: Kurdistan Independence Referendum in Months

By RUDAW 2/7/2014
Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani speaking to the BBC.
Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani speaking to the BBC.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A referendum to decide on independence for the autonomous Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq “is a question of months,” Kurdish President Massoud Barzani told the BBC in an interview.

“I cannot fix a date right now but it’s a question of months,” Barzani said about a referendum, adding it was up to the Kurdish parliament to decide on the date.

“I have said many times that independence is a natural right of the people of Kurdistan. All these developments (in Iraq) reaffirm that, and from now on we will not hide that the goal of Kurdistan is independence,” he told the BBC.

His words came as MPs in Baghdad opened the new session of parliament on time on Tuesday, following elections that preceded the current turmoil.  But it remained in session only until the Kurdish and Sunni blocs walked out, after the Shiites failed to come up with any name to replace Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister.

Maliki, who squeezed himself into a second term and looks determined to shoehorn himself into a third, appears amazingly out of touch, as Iraq falls apart before a cocktail of bulldozing forces that include Sunni jihadis, an al-Qaeda offshoot and loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s ousted military.

Riding on the crest of a Sunni insurgency they ignited, within weeks the insurgents have crushed the Iraqi army and taken control of large sweeps of territory, including the second-largest city, Mosul, and Anbar province, the largest.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot fighting in both countries, has declared an Islamic State from Aleppo in Syria to Diyala in Iraq.

Barzani’s words confirmed that the division of Iraq is no longer a fear: it is happening.

"Iraq is effectively partitioned now; should we stay in this tragic situation that Iraq is living?” Barzani told the BBC. “Of course, we are all with our Arab and Sunni brothers together in this crisis, but that doesn’t mean that we will abandon our goal,” he said.

“The latest events have established that this is the solution. We can’t go back to the previous situation. We can’t experiment with our fate for another 10 years. We can’t remain hostages to an unknown future,” Barzani added.

Meanwhile, the United Nations reported that the death toll for June, in all of Iraq except Anbar province, was 2,417 people, three times more than the 799 killed in May, before the insurgents began their advance. Most of those killed in June – 1,500 – were civilians.

After Iraqi troops collapsed and retreated from the north in face of the jihadi-led advance, Kurdish Peshmerga forces moved into the oil-rich city of Kirkuk -- which the Kurds have always seen as the capital of a future homeland -- and into other disputed areas in the provinces of Nineveh and Diyala. 

The three province Kurdistan Region – Erbil, Sulaimani and Duhok -- achieved autonomy from Iraq effectively in 2003.

Iraq’s five million Kurds, who suffered what is internationally being recognized as genocide under Saddam Hussein, have long yearned for an independent homeland. Until now, that dream has been opposed not only by neighboring Iran, Turkey and Syria – each with millions of minority Kurds – but by the United States as well.

The US has sent in 200 troops to secure its embassy in Baghdad, the largest in the world. But with the West unwilling to step in militarily to help Maliki, the prime minister has turned to Iran, Syria and Russia, which are reportedly providing arms troops and advisors.

Barzani said that an independent Kurdistan would be a threat to no one: “We will have the best of relations with all the neighbors and we will not be a threat to anyone at all, I’m sure.” 

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KIM | 2/7/2014
Referendum is the best most recommended method to legally achieve our goal. If need rises, thousands of youths, students members of KIM are prepared to hold a peaceful demo for independence, as well!
Schkak | 2/7/2014
God bless the Kurds and Kurdistan
aNgrYbiRd | 2/7/2014
Kurds have the rights to independence and those who are opposed to it from ten thousand miles away should know that we consider them bigots. For they pretend to uphold the ideals of freedom and equality but in reality they have double standards and have always sided with the oppressors against the oppressed. Whatever respect I had for America up to this point is totally gone after they came out and publicly opposed Kurdistan independence. But it us us the people of Kurdistan not the American who will decide our future. Our independence is nonnegotiable!
Brian | 2/7/2014
aNgrYbiRd, I just want you to know that as an American, Obama does not speak for all of us! I didn't vote for him and I strongly disagree with my country's stance on a free Kurdistan country. I have friends who are Kurds and they are some of the nicest people I know! You all deserve to have your independence. You should have had it long ago after WWI! I salute and support you! God bless!
Ibrahim | 2/7/2014
Does anyone know where I can find the interview ?
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