Iraqi-Kurdish leader calls for independence vote

Thu 4 Feb 2016

Iraqi-Kurdish leader calls for independence vote

On 2 February, the president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani, called for a nonbinding referendum on independence. He stated on his website: "The time has come and the situation is now suitable for the Kurdish people to make a decision through a referendum on their fate.” According to Barzani a referendum does not mean proclaiming statehood, but he would rather know the opinion of the Kurdish people about the possibility of independence. He did however not suggest a potential date for the referendum.

Previous referendum
Ten years ago an informal referendum on independence in Kurdistan was already held, and saw an overwhelming majority vote in favour of gaining independence. However, not all Kurdish political parties are in favour of independence for a variety of reasons, including the fear of giving Barzani too much power in an independent Kurdistan. Barzani’s mandate as president has already expired last year, but he remained in office. Some observers suggested that Barzani's statement was aimed for distracting the attention away from his own political troubles as stated above.

Regional struggles
In recent years the Kurds have sought to maximize their autonomy by building their own oil pipeline to Turkey and they exported oil independently from Baghdad. This resulted in Baghdad cutting in the funding for the region. As a result, the region struggled to prevent itself from an economic collapse. Regional powers have historically opposed Kurdish aspirations for independence, especially neighbouring states with large Kurdish minorities of their own, because they are afraid the same would happen in their country.

Sources: rfe/rl, Al Arabiya,