Hundreds of thousands of refugees - Christians, Muslims and Yazidis-escaped from the Islamic State have been sheltering in the region. The area is rich in oil and natural gas and has long been contended between local authorities and central government. Turkey, Syria and Iran against the project for fear of internal secessions.
Erbil (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The autonomous Kurdistan region will hold a referendum on September 25th to decide on independence from Baghdad and the creation of an autonomous territorial entity. The Kurdish leaders in Erbil yesterday announced the vote despite the vast front opposition to dividing Iraq.
Over the years, hundreds of thousands of Christians have been sheltered in the region, as well as Muslims and Yazidis who fled Nineveh's plain after the arrival of the Islamic State.
The Kurdistan Presidency office issued a note confirming that "September 25, 2017 is the date for the independence referendum". The Iraqi Kurdistan region is formed by three provinces, which are entrusted with the guidance of a regional autonomous government and protected by local security forces.
Independent self-government has a large consensus among the local population but is opposed by most of the country and the international community because it could undermine the nation's instability.
The statement issued by the Kurdish regional presidency reminds one of the most controversial issues related to independence, saying that the referendum will be held "in the Kurdistan region and in Kurdistan areas not controlled by local government". The reference is to the northern territories claimed by both Kurdistan and Baghdad, rich in oil and natural gas. Among them is the area of Kirkuk, now mostly under the control of Peshmerga.
In recent times, both Baghdad and the Kurdish region are undergoing a profound economic and financial crisis, heightened by the collapse of oil prices; In fact, the proceeds from the sale of crude represent the vast majority of revenue.
In addition, despite a large movement favoring Kurdish independence, Iraqi Kurds are divided in their entirety; Splits and contrasts that risk paralyzing the unborn state immediately.
Adding to this is the opposition of some regional powers: Turkey, Syria and Iran have a large internal Kurdish community and are against the birth of a Kurdish independent entity, fearing – above all Ankara - that it can feed secessionists .
Other critical and opposing voices to the country's division include the Chaldean Church, which has long worked for the unity of Iraq in the face of internal problems and external threats (including the Islamic State). The opposition of the patriarchate is not just about the self-governing of the Kurds, but also the projects powered by some Christian groups which could lead to the creation of a "Christian ghetto" on the Nineveh plain.
The President of Iraqi Kurdistan confirms his intention to go to the polls and to battle for the future of Kirkuk. The city must be a "symbol of coexistence of all ethnicities". The "Yes" victory does not automatically involve the declaration of independence, but will strengthen negotiations with the central government.
Kurdish authorities propose a ceasefire to "prevent further violence and clashes” and "open dialogue" between the two sides. The Kurdish Parliament postpones the legislative and presidential elections of November 1st. UN offers mediation to "overcome the crisis".
The celebrations took place yesterday in the holy city, to remember the killing of Mohammed's grandson. Over 25,000 agents assigned to the security of the faithful. Participants chanted slogans and songs against the Kurdish leader Barzani and the "separatist conspiracy in northern Iraq".
High turnout among population, even Christian, and without any force or pressure to vote. AsiaNews source: a vote that calls for a redrawing of regional power balance, after Saddam, extremist violence and Isis. The "courageous dialogue" demanded by the Chaldean patriarch for a political solution. Fears over Erdogan’s “grave” threats.
Polls opened at 8 am local time in the three provinces of the autonomous region. First results expected tomorrow morning. Baghdad has already announced "measures" to defend the unity of the country, including a Kurdish oil blockade. Iran stops flights to and from Kurdistan. Ankara extends the mandate of Turkish troops to Iraq (and Syria).