Iraq’s Kurds vote 'yes' to independent state in referendum — official results

Syrian Kurds wave the Kurdish flag, in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli on September 26, 2017. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 28 September 2017
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Iraq’s Kurds vote 'yes' to independent state in referendum — official results

IRBIL: Iraq’s Kurds announced a massive “yes” vote for independence on Wednesday following a referendum that has incensed Baghdad and sparked international concern.
Official results showed 92.73 percent of voters backing statehood in Monday’s non-binding referendum, which Iraq’s central government rejected as illegal. Turnout was put at 72.61 percent.
Longtime Iraqi Kurd leader Masoud Barzani said the vote would not lead to an immediate declaration of independence and should instead open the door to negotiations.
But Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi told lawmakers on Wednesday there was no question of using its results as the basis for talks.
“The referendum must be annulled and dialogue initiated in the framework of the constitution. We will never hold talks based on the results of the referendum,” Abadi said.
“We will impose Iraqi law in the entire region of Kurdistan under the constitution,” he said.
Pressure has been mounting on the Kurds since the vote, not just from Baghdad but also from Ankara, with Turkey threatening a range of measures including cutting off key export routes for the region.
An overwhelming “yes” vote had been widely expected from the electorate of 4.58 million.
Pursuing a long-cherished dream of statehood, the Kurds went ahead with the referendum in defiance of widespread objections, including from the United Nations and United States.
It has raised fears of unrest and the possibility of a military confrontation involving the Kurds, who are key allies in internationally backed offensives against the jihadists of the Daesh group.
In a televised address late on Tuesday, Barzani had urged Abadi “not to close the door to dialogue because it is dialogue that will solve problems.”
“We assure the international community of our willingness to engage in dialogue with Baghdad,” he said, insisting the referendum was not meant “to delimit the border (between Kurdistan and Iraq), nor to impose it de facto.”

Baghdad pushes back 
Lawmakers on Wednesday passed a resolution calling on Abadi to “take all necessary measures to maintain Iraq’s unity” including by deploying security forces to disputed areas.
The resolution also called for the closure of border posts with Turkey and Iran that are outside central government control.
Abadi said Tuesday he would ban all international flights to and from Kurdistan in three days unless airports in its main cities Irbil and Sulaimaniyah were placed under his government’s control.
Airlines from Turkey as well as Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon said Wednesday they will halt flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan this week until further notice at the request of Baghdad.
Turkey fears the vote will stoke the separatist ambitions of its own sizeable Kurdish minority and on Tuesday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Iraq’s Kurds risked sparking an “ethnic war.”
“If Barzani and the Kurdistan Regional Government do not go back on this mistake as soon as possible, they will go down in history with the shame of having dragged the region into an ethnic and sectarian war,” he said.
Erdogan had earlier warned that Turkey would shut its border with Iraqi Kurdistan and threatened to block oil exports from the region through his country.
Erdogan even suggested the possibility of a cross-border incursion similar to the one Turkey carried out against IS and Kurdish fighters in Syria.
Monday’s vote took place across the three northern provinces of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan — Irbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk — and in disputed border zones such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
Opponents have accused Barzani of seeking to empower himself through the vote, and said he should have accepted a UN-backed plan to postpone the referendum in favor of negotiations with Baghdad.
Iran, which also has a large Kurdish minority, condemned the vote as well and on Sunday stopped all flights from its territory to and from Iraqi Kurdistan.
Analysts say that despite their threats, Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran are proceeding cautiously in reacting to the vote, wary of sparking a serious confrontation with the Kurds that would further destabilize an already volatile region.
Closing their borders with Iraqi Kurdistan would also hurt Turkey, which exports more than $8 billion worth of goods every year to the region, and Iran, which exports about $6 billion.
Left without a state of their own when the borders of the Middle East were redrawn after World War I, the Kurds see themselves as the world’s largest stateless people.
The non-Arab ethnic group of between 25 and 35 million is spread across Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.


Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

A member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) reacts next to policemen during a demonstration in solidarity with a HDP lawmaker on hunger strike in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, on February 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

  • Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: Turkish police on Friday prevented supporters from rallying outside the home of a pro-Kurdish lawmaker on hunger strike for 100 days.
The protest bid coincides with the 20th anniversary of the capture of Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is jailed in a notorious prison island near Istanbul.
Leyla Guven of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), launched her action on Nov. 8 while in jail to protest against Ocalan’s prison conditions.
She was freed last month under judicial supervision but continued her protest, refusing any treatment. Guven, 55, is consuming only sugared or salted water.
Police on Friday blocked supporters from approaching Guven’s house in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir after a rally called by the HDP, an AFP correspondent said.
“The biggest task ahead of us today is to turn every aspect of life into an arena for struggle and support hunger strikes at the highest level,” HDP MP Dilan Dirayet Tasdemir said.
“This dark picture and severe conditions of fascism can only be broken through our organized struggle,” Tasdemir said.
More than 200 prisoners are on hunger strike to protest what they call Ocalan’s isolation, according to the HDP.
Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Ocalan was caught in Kenya outside the Greek Embassy in Nairobi on Feb. 15, 1999 by Turkish secret service agents after attempting to seek asylum in Europe.
Turkish authorities last month allowed Ocalan’s brother Mehmet to see him, the first visit in over two years.