ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - Despite the shock of seeing its allies siding with its enemies, the Kurdistan Region will achieve statehood sooner than a lot of people think, according to a Kurdish official.
In an interview with CNN, dismissed Governor of Kirkuk Najmaldin Karim said that the dream of Kurdish independence was still alive among the people of Kurdistan.
"I still believe very strongly that Kurdistan one day will become independent," he stated, adding that it would "probably be sooner than a lot of people think."
Karim, speaking from Erbil, was asked about the timing of the referendum and the current stepping down of President of the Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani.
"All political parties supported independence," he highlighted, noting that hundreds of thousands of people attended rallies. "We always knew there were risks."
Karim said the Kurdish leadership, notably President Barzani, knew that it would be "no picnic" to ask for independence.
"Separating from a country that has oppressed us, subjugated us for the past hundred years," was never going to be easy, Karim said.
The ousted Kurdish Governor of the embattled province of Kirkuk stressed that the President was not stepping down due to the aftermath of the Sep. 25 independence vote.
"Masoud Barzani carried the banner for the referendum, which was held peacefully," he emphasized. "His term is simply ending, and he promised he would not remain as president past his term. This is a normal thing."
Karim, however, stressed that it was the reactions of regional and international partners that was abnormal.
"Unfortunately, the reactions of the Iraqi Government and neighboring countries were brutal."
"One thing we did not expect was for our friends, the people we fought with and defended, not just our country but also their country against [the Islamic State (IS)], against terrorists, to stand by and give tacit approval to the oppressors and support them," Karim declared.
Karim claimed the Kurdistan Region's western allies were supportive of independence but that the timing was inappropriate. "We asked them why they would not say so publicly, and we would accept that. But to say it was not a good time was not good enough"
In retaliation to the vote, the Iraqi Federal Government launched an assault led by Iranian-backed Shia militias in the disputed area of Kirkuk and others, and Baghdad dismissed the Governor for supporting the referendum.
"We temporarily lost some areas of Kurdistan which are considered occupied rather than disputed because they came by force. We asked for dialogue, they refused to come forward."
"We will get Kirkuk back," Karim concluded.