On referendum anniversary, Masoud Barzani commends 'heroic people of Kurdistan for invariably refusing to bow down'
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – President Masoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) congratulated the people of Kurdistan, on the fourth anniversary of the independence referendum.
President Barzani said in a message on Twitter, "The positive response of 93% of the participants of the Kurdistan Independence Referendum was a historic achievement," adding his voice to similar sentiments expressed on the occasion by top officials in the autonomous region.
The referendum was spearheaded by Barzani at a time when he held the post of President of the Kurdistan Region. It was in a meeting chaired by Barzani that Kurdish political parties decided to hold the referendum and set the date for Sep. 25, 2017.
Barzani added in his message, "On the 4th anniversary of that spectacular victory, I commend the heroic people of Kurdistan for invariably refusing to bow down."
Despite pressure by regional states, Baghdad, the US, the UK, and the UN to postpone the vote as the date neared, Barzani decided to proceed. The "Yes" vote won by a landslide, with 92.73 percent favoring independence from Iraq.
In the month that followed, the Iraqi federal government launched a military attack with the help of Iran-backed armed groups of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to take over multiple areas disputed by Baghdad and Erbil, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
Baghdad also imposed sanctions on the Kurdistan Region, including an international flight ban on the Kurdistan Region’s airports.
Nechirvan Barzani, then the Kurdistan Region's prime minister, eventually decided to freeze the results of the referendum as a way to initiate talks with Baghdad and lift the sanctions, but embargoes remained in place for months.
In March 2018, Baghdad ended the flight ban and relations have since improved between the regional and federal governments, who continue to negotiate on multiple seemingly intractable issues between them.