Kurdish parliament votes to move ahead with referendum

A picture taken on September 15, 2017 shows a general view of Kurdish MPs sitting during a session of Kurdistan's regional parliament in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. (AFP / SAFIN HAMED)
Updated 15 September 2017
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Kurdish parliament votes to move ahead with referendum

IRBIL, Iraq: The Kurdish region’s parliament voted Friday evening to approve the holding of a controversial referendum on support for independence Sept. 25, according to broadcasts of the session by local television. Kurdish leaders have come under increasing pressure from key ally the United States, as well as neighboring Turkey and Iran, to call off the vote fearing it could plunge the region into greater instability as the fight against the Daesh group grinds to a close.
Earlier Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country plans to hold a high-level security meeting on Sept. 22 to decide what response to take over the Kurdish referendum, accused leaders of Iraq’s autonomous region of “serious political inaptitude” for going ahead with plans to hold the vote.
Also Friday, Iraq’s Prime Minister received a call from his Turkish counterpart who underscored his rejection of the Kurdish vote, according to a statement released by Haider Al-Abadi’s office Friday evening.
Iraq’s Kurdish region plans to hold a referendum on support for independence from Iraq on Sept. 25 in three governorates that make up their autonomous region, and in disputed areas like Kirkuk that are controlled by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad.
The planned vote has escalated tensions with Baghdad as well as neighboring Turkey and Iran — countries home to sizeable Kurdish populations.
During the call between the Turkish and Iraqi leaders, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim expressed concerns that the vote is a danger to “the security of the region and the safety of its people,” and “affirmed Turkey’s support for all the steps taken by the Iraqi government to preserve the unity of Iraq,” the statement from Al-Abadi’s office said.
Just a year ago relations between Baghdad and Ankara were at a significant low with Al-Abadi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan trading schoolyard insults. The scuffle was sparked by the presence of some 500 Turkish troops at a base north of Mosul. Baghdad said the troops were there without permission and called on them to withdraw. Ankara refused, insisting they would play a role in retaking Mosul.
Thursday, a senior US official announced that Brussels, Washington, Paris, London and Baghdad had cooperatively developed an alternative plan to the contentious referendum. While providing no details on the alternative, Brett McGurk, US special presidential envoy to the anti-Islamic State coalition said at a news conference in Irbil he had presented it to Kurdish leaders.
“There’s an alternative on the table. It’s decision time,” he said.
The Kurdish region’s parliament decision Friday appears to be a rebuff of that alternative.
Iraq’s Kurdish region has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy since the US imposed a no-fly zone over northern Iraq after the 1990 Gulf War. It has its own parliament and armed forces, flies its own flag, and has been a close US ally against IS and other militant groups.


Iranian bread permanent guest at Kuwaiti tables

For decades, Taftoon bread has been a staple of Kuwaiti dinning tables. (AFP)
Updated 17 July 2019
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Iranian bread permanent guest at Kuwaiti tables

  • Taftoon has remained popular in Kuwait despite escalating tensions in the past year between Iran on one side and the US on the other

KUWAIT CITY: Khalil Kamal makes sure he regularly visits Kuwait’s popular Souq Al-Mubarakiya, where he enjoys his favorite kebab meal with onion, rocket and freshly baked Iranian bread.
The smell of the bread wafts through the market as it bakes in a traditional oven at the Al-Walimah restaurant in downtown Kuwait City.
The restaurant’s Iranian baker takes one of the many dough balls lined up in front of him and spreads it over a cushion, using the pad to stick the dough against the inside wall of the clay oven.
Once ready, he uses a long stick to reach in and pull out a steaming rounded loaf, served piping hot to customers.
For decades, Iranian bread — known as taftoon — has been a staple of Kuwaiti breakfast, lunch and dinner tables.
“Iranian bread is the only bread we’ve known since we were born,” 60-year-old Kamal told AFP.
Hassan Abdullah Zachriaa, a Kuwaiti of Iranian origin, opened Al-Walimah in 1996. Its tables are spread across a courtyard, surrounded by wooden columns and entryways.
Zachriaa, in his 70s, said the restaurant puts out between 400 and 500 loaves of Iranian bread a day.
“The big turnout in Kuwait for Iranian bread stems from the fact that for decades, our mothers used to make it at home,” he told AFP.
“We then started to buy it from bakeries and stand in lines to get it fresh and hot in the morning, noon and evening.”
The flat bread is offered alongside many dishes popular in Kuwait such as Al-Baja, lamb bits stuffed with rice, Al-Karaeen, cooked sheep feet, classic chickpea plates, or beans and cooked fish.
Almost all restaurants in the old market have their own traditional clay ovens where either Iranian or Afghan bakers work.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Taftoon is offered alongside many dishes popular in Kuwait such as Al-Baja, lamb bits stuffed with rice.

• Almost all restaurants in the old market have their own traditional clay ovens where either Iranian or Afghan bakers work.

• The bread has remained popular in Kuwait despite escalating tensions in the past year between Iran on one side and the US on the other.

• Bakeries specializing in Iranian bread began popping up in Kuwait in the 1970s and have since expanded to more than 100.

Derbas Hussein Al-Zoabi, 81, a customer at Al-Walimah, said many Kuwaitis were raised on Iranian bread.
“Since childhood, Iranians baked bread for us ... and we used to eat it in the morning with milk and ghee” — clarified butter.
Other than at street markets, Kuwaitis can buy Iranian bread from co-ops, where people line up in the early hours of the morning and again in the evening to get the freshly baked goods.
Some bakeries even have designated segregated entryways for men and women.
Some Kuwaitis customise their orders with spreads of sesame, thyme and dates, and many come prepared with cloth bags to keep the bread as fresh as possible on the trip home.
Bakeries specializing in Iranian bread began popping up in Kuwait in the 1970s and have since expanded to more than 100, according to deputy chief of the Union Co-operative Society Khaled Al-Otaibi.
“These bakeries produce 2 million loaves of bread a day to meet the needs of Kuwaitis and residents,” he told AFP.
“They receive fuel and flour at a subsidised price so that bread is available for not more than 20 fils (less than seven cents).”
The price however can go to up to 50 fils depending on the amount and type of additives, including sesame and fennel.
Taftoon has remained popular in Kuwait despite escalating tensions in the past year between Iran on one side and the US on the other.