ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani on Thursday called on the world to not stand against Kurdistan's independence referendum which is "a peaceful democratic right of all people."
The autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq is scheduled to hold an independence referendum on Sep. 25, 2017.
“When we have a referendum, it is to have that mandate from the people, to show domestic and the external players what the Kurdish people want,” Barzani said in an interview with Foreign Policy.
He repeatedly emphasized that the Kurdistan Region would start serious and peaceful negotiations and dialogue with Baghdad following the referendum to fulfill the wishes of the people.
“Once we do the referendum and start a dialogue, it doesn’t mean that we give up on the wishes of the people. So the referendum is for independence and its result must be implemented,” he said.
Barzani mentioned that the federal government of Iraq does not desire any real and meaningful partnership with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). “We don’t want to accept being their subordinate. This is in order to prevent a bigger problem, to prevent a bloody war, and the deterioration of the security of the whole region.”
The Kurdish President stated that the independence referendum will not happen if they wait to solve every single problem first. He mentioned that Kurdish independence will "automatically" solve many existing problems.
He categorized Erbil’s relations with Baghdad into two parts: The establishment of Iraq in 1920 which remained until 2003, and then from 2003 until present. Barzani said that Kurds have been disadvantaged in both stages by such acts as genocidal campaigns, the existence of mass graves, the cutting of the federal budget for the Kurdistan Region by Baghdad and the violation of the Iraqi constitution among many other issues.
The President also noted that should the referendum not take place, it would lead to further deterioration of the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad as well as destabilization in the region. He stated that Kurds want to hold a referendum in order to prevent aggravated instability in the area.
Regarding the support from the international community for the Kurdistan referendum, he added, “If these international players are against this referendum, that means that they are against their own values and principles – the peaceful, democratic right of people to express their decision regarding their destiny. If they stand against the referendum, it means that they are against democracy.”
Commentating on the recent isolation of Qatar by some Gulf Countries and the possibility of a similar reaction from the world and neighboring countries toward Kurdistan for holding a referendum, Barzani separated the case and stated that Gulf Countries isolated Qatar by accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, while the Kurdistan Region is simply practicing and applying democratic principles and values.
“We would prefer to die of starvation than to live under the oppression and occupation of others. If this decision is made by referendum and the reaction is to isolate us, let our people die. That will be a “glory” for the world, to have killed our people by starvation just because those people wanted to choose their destiny through democratic means,” he stated.
Kurdistan's President also highlighted that the referendum will "surely" gain a majority of votes in favor of independence.
"It would mean that the people of the Kurdistan Region are ready for it and accept every risk."
He also said that the Kurdistan Region will continue its military and security cooperation with Baghdad against terrorists following the referendum.
On the subject of minorities in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, Barzani stated that the KRG is with them and they are free to choose their destiny, whether they wish to be part of Iraq or an independent Kurdistan. He noted that they would be given the opportunity to decide their fate in a future referendum, especially in the disputed territories that the KRG claims control over as part of Kurdistan.
At another point in the interview, Barzani addressed the importance of independence to his legacy and stated, “I was born for the independence of Kurdistan. When I was born, my father and our family had left the Barzan area to go to the Mahabad region of Iran and support the first Republic of Kurdistan. I was born there. I took arms when I was 16 years old. Imagine what this means for my legacy, all of my life has been for the independence of Kurdistan."
He continued, “In Kurdish history, the first Republic was the Republic of Kurdistan in Mahabad. When they raised the Kurdish flag, I was born in the shadow of that flag. I want to die in the shadow of that flag of an independent Kurdistan.”
Barzani also emphasized that whatever he has done in his life, it has been for the independence of Kurdistan.
“My plea to the free world is to not stand against their own values and principles by standing against the self-determination and peaceful democratic rights of our nation,” the Kurdish President concluded.
Editing by Ava Homa