A planned referendum on the secession of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region — to be held later this year — has drawn fire not only from Baghdad, but also from Kurdish, Turkmen, Arab and Christian groups.
The Sept. 25 poll will see residents of the region cast ballots on whether or not to declare independence from the Iraqi state.
On July 25, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi voiced his disapproval of the planned referendum, which he said would constitute a violation of Iraq’s constitution.
“This referendum… is not legal; we will not recognize it,” al-Abadi asserted.
While Iraq “respects Kurdish political aspirations”, he added, Iraq’s national charter “doesn’t allow for unilateral referendums on secession from the state”.
The Sadrist movement, Iraq’s largest Shia political grouping, has also voiced opposition to the poll.
Movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr recently said he had tried to convince Kurdish officials to postpone the poll and resolve their outstanding differences with Baghdad through dialogue.
Iraqi Vice-President Iyad Allawi, meanwhile, has also expressed opposition to the referendum, saying “now isn’t the time for the Kurdish region to hold a referendum” on independence.
Iraq’s Sunnis, for their part, have shown less opposition to holding the referendum — as long as it doesn’t apply to the ethnically-diverse cities of Kirkuk and Mosul.
Iraqi Vice-President Osama al-Nujaifi, a prominent Sunni leader, has said that both Baghdad and Erbil must first agree upon the parameters of the poll.
Many Arabs and Turkmen in the disputed city of Kirkuk, meanwhile, have vowed to boycott the referendum.
“Turkmen political parties plan to boycott this referendum, which runs contrary to the Iraqi constitution,” Riyaz Sarikahya, head of the Turkmeneli Party, told Anadolu Agency.
Khalid al-Mafrasi, for his part, an Arab lawmaker from Kirkuk, said the city’s Arab community had also decided to boycott the poll.
“We plan to boycott this unilateral referendum decision, which will only lead to new problems — both for the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and the city of Kirkuk,” al-Mafrasi told Anadolu Agency.
Meanwhile, a number of Christian communities in the Hamdaniya and Tel Kayf districts east of Mosul — areas disputed between Baghdad and Erbil — have voiced opposition to holding the poll in their respective regions.
“We respect the Kurds’ decision to hold the referendum, but they can’t force the poll on Christian residents of Nineveh province [of which Mosul serves as regional capital],” the Babylon Movement, established to protect Mosul’s Christians from Daesh, declared in a statement.
And in a statement issued Saturday, the Kurdish Movement for Change (Gorran) called for postponing the poll until the “right time and conditions” emerge.
According to the party, which is active in the Kurdish region, the decision to hold the referendum was made illegally without the consent of the region’s political parties.
Ali Bapir, head of the Kurdistan Islamic Society Party (Komel), warned on Sunday that the referendum was destined to fail due to its “sectarian” nature.
The ‘No’ campaign
Last week, a group of lawmakers, journalists and activists in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah announced the launch of a “No” campaign against the planned referendum.
“This referendum isn’t a step towards an independent democratic state, but a very dangerous mistake,” campaign organizers said in a statement, warning that the planned poll threatened to increase polarization in the region.
“It will lead to the loss of both international and regional support [for the Kurdish region] and will not contribute to the rightful cause of our people,” campaigners asserted.
The ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by KRG President Masoud Barzani, continues to be the referendum’s main backer.
Despite strong opposition from both Gorran and Komel, Barzani has remained insistent on holding the poll in September.
Jalal Talabani, for his part, a former president of Iraq and current leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (the KDP’s main political rival), has not articulated a clear stance on the upcoming referendum.
Source: Anadolu Agency