ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Wednesday compared the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum to crimes committed by the Islamic State (IS).
Speaking at the 62nd anniversary of the foundation of his Dawa Party in Baghdad, Abadi mentioned the Region’s referendum and said it was “a crime no less than the threats of IS extremists.”
The Region’s leadership decided to hold the historic independence vote on Sep. 25, describing it as a response to Baghdad’s mistreatment of the people of Kurdistan.
With over 72 percent of eligible voters in the Region, the referendum received nearly 93 percent of votes in favor of secession from Iraq.
During his speech, Abadi emphasized the need to prevent “sectarian people from tearing the country apart,” likening such efforts to defeating IS across the country.
The Kurdistan Region’s leadership had emphasized many times that a “Yes” vote would not necessarily mean an immediate declaration of independence.
Instead, it would provide the Kurdish leadership with a mandate to engage in serious dialogue and peaceful negotiations with Baghdad for an amicable divorce.
Following the referendum, Baghdad imposed penalties on Kurdistan, including an international flight ban on both the Erbil and Sulaimani airports, which has affected the lives of many—notably humanitarian aid and foreign workers.
Kurdish officials have labeled Baghdad’s actions as “collective punishment” against the people of the Region.
Additionally, on Oct. 16, Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias attacked Peshmerga in Kirkuk and other disputed areas, leading to the displacement of over 180,000 Kurds.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany