Masoud Barzani: Oct. 16 a dark, unforgettable day in Kurdistan history
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Marking the first anniversary of the Oct. 16 attack and military takeover of Kirkuk by Iraqi forces and Shia militias, former President of the Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani, referenced the event as a ‘dark day’ in the history of the region, and denounced ‘internal Kurdish treason.’
Last October, in response to the Kurdistan Region’s historic independence referendum, Iraqi forces and the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias mobilized against the Kurdish Peshmerga in Kirkuk and other disputed areas, ousting the Kurdish forces that had previously fought alongside them in the war against the Islamic State (IS).
Barzani in his statement noted that the deadly military takeover was the result of “the betrayal of a group” within a Kurdish faction, who organized for the Iraqi forces and the militia groups to enter Kirkuk.
For many, the blame lays with a group of Kurdish leaders within the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), namely members of the Talabani family. It was reported by some, including PUK members, that the Kurdish group had reached a backdoor deal with Iraqi forces and the militias to surrender Kirkuk to Baghdad.
Barzani warned that those Kurds had “played with the destiny” of the people.
“This land, which had been protected with the blood of thousands of people from this homeland, was occupied and ravaged [that day] within the framework of a [covert] plan,” and the “precious symbols” of the Kurdistan Region – notably the Kurdistan flag – “were insulted.”
The Kurdish leader described the secretive deal, often referenced to as the “betrayal of October 16,” as an “insult to the one-hundred-years of [Kurdish] struggle and sacrifices.”
“It was an insult to the blood of martyrs and the heroic Peshmerga, who were fighting the terrorist group, Da’esh [IS], in Kirkuk and all other Kurdistani areas outside of the Kurdistan Region administration, on behalf of all humanity.”
It was also an affront to the legitimate and peaceful voice of the people of the Kurdistan Region, whose crime was “only to express its true voice to the world,” the statement added.
“We anticipated all possibilities, but we never expected a hand from within to stab the people of the Kurdistan Region in the back like this.”
Barzani affirmed once more that the will of the people of the Kurdistan Region “would not be broken” and that “spirits would remain high despite the attack and treason.”
“The objective of the Oct. 16 attack was to dissolve the Kurdistan Region as a [separate] entity” and “render the rights of the people meaningless,” he argued.
“There was a larger scheme against our people, but when the Peshmerga chose to defend [the land] and refused to surrender, the [situation] changed and the Kurdistan Region preserved its pride.”
“On this anniversary,” Barzani said, “I ask everyone to respect the history and the rights of the people of the Kurdistan Region.”
“Chauvinistic policies and denial will result in nothing but conflict and the reversal of any progress [made in Iraq]. We have always demanded Kirkuk be an example of [peaceful] coexistence, but its Kurdistani identity cannot be challenged.”
He called on the people of the Kurdistan Region to look forward to the future “with hope and strength.”
“The claim of our people is right and legitimate. It cannot be ended, even by treason.”
“Oct. 16 is a dark day in the history of our people. It will never be forgotten, and it should be a lesson for every single individual of Kurdistan,” Barzani concluded.
Editing by Nadia Riva