JOHANNESBURG, September 13 – Devastated by several foreign invasions, a bloody war in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), Iraq faces the possibility of new upheaval as the country’s Kurds pursue their goal of independence.
The Kurds are a minority in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey and have long fought for an independent state, a move that the four countries regard as a threat to their sovereignty – and to regional stability.
On Thursday, the Iraqi Kurdish parliament is expected to meet for the first time since October 2015 in response to a rejection by Iraq’s parliament on Tuesday of Kurdish plans to hold an independence referendum aimed at creating a Kurdish state in Iraq’s northern territory.
On Tuesday, the Iraqi parliament voted against Kurdish plans to hold the ballot on September 25, labelling it a “threat to the civil peace and regional security”, before authorising Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi, to take any measures necessary to preserve Iraq’s existing borders.
This prompted Kurdish lawmakers to walk out of the parliament, Al Jazeera reported.
Al Abadi and other government officials have warned repeatedly that the referendum would violate Iraq’s constitution, adding that “imposing a fait accompli will not work. We will not allow the partition of Iraq”.
“I call upon the Kurdish leadership to come to Baghdad and conclude a dialogue,” Abadi said at a news conference.
Iraqi Kurdistan, officially called the Kurdistan Region by the Iraqi constitution, is a proto-state located in the north of Iraq and constitutes the country’s only autonomous region.
Authorities in the autonomous Kurdish territory announced in June their decision to hold a referendum on independence.
The referendum on whether to secede from Iraq was due to be held in the three governorates – Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaymaniyah – that constitute the nation’s Kurdish region, and in areas of disputed territory currently under Kurdish military control, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
However, it is not only the Iraqi government that is concerned that the Kurdish push for independence could spark renewed conflict both in Iraq and the region in general.
World powers too fear that the vote could reignite a new conflict between Iraq’s minority Kurdish population and Baghdad, thereby compromising the fight against the Islamic State (IS).
Additionally, Turkey, Iran and Syria are also concerned that the independence move could ignite the spread of separatism among their own Kurdish populations.
Kurds have been pushing for their own state since the conclusion of WWI, when Kurdish-populated areas were split between modern-day Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria as boundaries across the Middle East were redrawn.
– African News Agency (ANA)