By: Kaya Derin Ozkan
September 25, is the official date for the referendum/vote to create an independent Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). What will this mean for the neighboring countries of Turkey and Iran that have significant Kurdish populations? How will the nation of Iraq respond to the Iraqi Kurds seceding from Iraq? How does the leader of the current Iraqi Kurdistan respond to this?
First of all Turkey and Iran are both against this election as the two governments and their current political leaders, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey) and Ali Khamenei (Iran) both fear that this action will spark a sense of nationalism of Kurds in their own countries. The Turkish army has begun exercising on the KRI border. The Turkish PM Binali Yildirim has made it clear that any potential threat from the KRI will result in military aggression from the Turkish government.
The current prime minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi is calling for a postpone the election for another date, Haider al-Abadi has come to this decision with the Iraqi supreme court. Yet the current leader of the Iraqi Kurds Masoud Barzani has no legal obligation to oblige to the postponing of the election and will most likely ignore the Iraqi PM’s postponement.
The UN, US, and the UK are also against this election as this process could possibly hamper the fight against IS. The top court of Iraq has stated that the referendum in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan cannot be held until its legal validity has been established. Even if the vote is unconstitutional and non-binding, the Iraqi court cannot legally ban a referendum. The KRI leader Masoud Barzani has also warned Baghdad that he is ready to start drawing up borders for the semi-autonomous region.
Kurds are an ethnic group that has long wanted an independent nation. This KRI was an autonomous nation due to the Gulf War of 1991 but was later deemed as a semi-autonomous region after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. They are also the fourth largest ethnic group in the middle east. Their ambitions of an independence have been suppressed through military dominance by Iran, Turkey, and Iraq.
Overall, it may take years before Kurdistan may actually become an autonomous state. They have a long way to go through seeking UN approval proper funding, and enough military support the drawn borders, and most importantly will they stand the test of time.