Iran warns Kirkuk over Iraqi Kurdistan referendum

Members of the Kirkuk Provincial Council vote on the referendum in Kirkuk, Iraq August 29, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 30 August 2017
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Iran warns Kirkuk over Iraqi Kurdistan referendum

TEHRAN: Iran on Wednesday warned the Iraqi province of Kirkuk against taking part in next month’s Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum, saying it is “wrong, provocative and unacceptable.”
The council in Kirkuk, an ethnically mixed region under Baghdad’s control, voted Tuesday to take part in the referendum, a move the Iraqi central government denounced as illegal and unconstitutional.
The plans to hold the Sept. 25 referendum have been criticized by neighboring Turkey and Iran, which have large Kurdish minority populations.
On Wednesday, Iran said “the Kirkuk council’s decision to take part in the Kurdistan region’s referendum is wrong, provocative and unacceptable.”
A statement from the Foreign Ministry described as “dangerous” the referendum it said had been rejected by the Iraqi central government, the UN, many countries in the region and beyond.
It “does not help recent dialogues in Baghdad to resolve existing issues and will affect Iraq’s national capacity and power in stabilizing that country’s victories over terrorism,” the statement quoted ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran warns against this wrong decision which is a clear breach of Iraq’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty and stresses again that... any measure creating new crises in the region and borders of Iraq’s neighbors will be intolerable.”
Kirkuk, an oil-rich province made up of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, is under Baghdad’s control but is claimed by the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region.
The Iraqi Kurdistan referendum is non-binding but could lead to independence.


In an Iraqi village, a little girl hides skin disease from neighbors

Haura, a 4-year-old Iraqi child, in the village of Wahed Haziran, Diwaniya province, has a rare skin disease that covers much of her upper body in black marks and hair. AFP
Updated 47 min 28 sec ago
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In an Iraqi village, a little girl hides skin disease from neighbors

  • Iraq’s medical system has been destroyed by the 15 years of chaos
  • We have seen several doctors and they all told us that she cannot be treated in Iraq

WAHED HAZIRAN: Four-year-old Iraqi girl Haura should be enjoying her childhood — games in the street, tearing in and out of friends’ homes and small squabbles over toys.
Instead, a rare congenital skin condition covering much of her upper body in black marks and hair has made her the object of ridicule in her village, about 200 km south of Baghdad.
Everyday, Haura’s parents dress her in long sleeved shirts and high collars, but it is a losing battle — her neck gives her away, to laughter and jeers.
“In two years, she will have to go to school — we really dread that,” says Haura’s mother Alia Khafif at the family home, in Wahed Haziran, Diwaniya province.
“How will the other children behave with her? We can’t guarantee that she’ll be comfortable in a school and this is the biggest obstacle for her future,” sighs Khafif, dressed in a traditional long black veil.
The black marks and hair cover Haura’s shoulders and almost her entire back, along with much of her arms and neck.
But things could still get a lot worse.
Her condition, a giant form of naevus — birthmarks or moles — make her highly vulnerable to malignant melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer.
To ward off a potentially “fatal” outcome, the best treatments would be a skin graft and laser sessions, dermatologist Aqil Al-Khaldi tells AFP. He also recommends psychological help.
But Haura’s despairing family can’t afford these things.
Iraq’s medical system has been destroyed by the 15 years of chaos that has followed the toppling in 2003 of dictator Saddam Hussein, and by more than a decade of sanctions before that.
“We have seen several doctors and they all told us that she cannot be treated in Iraq. They all say we have to go to a specialist center abroad,” says Haura’s mother.
“We cannot afford the journey or medical costs.”
Even treatment to alleviate itching is beyond the family’s reach — and the irritation gets worse with the Summer heat, as temperatures regularly exceed 50 Celsius.
“What we have is barely enough to live on and to send four brothers and sisters to school,” adds Khafif, whose husband is old, sick and unemployed.
Haura’s teenage brother Ahmad stands up for her.
“She’s a normal child, there’s nothing wrong with her,” he insists.
“But when she leaves the house, our neighbors laugh at her.”
Outside in the street, passing children avoid her like the plague.
“Even if the Prophet asks us, we won’t play with her,” one says.
So when her siblings head to school, Haura sits and plays on her own — or peers mournfully into a little green-framed mirror, held up close to show only her big brown eyes and pretty face.