UK delegation will monitor Kurdistan referendum process: British MP

British MP

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – As the referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region nears, a number of UK Members of Parliament will soon visit the region to act as observers to the voting process on Sep. 25, said a British member of Parliament On Monday.

In an exclusive interview with Kurdistan 24, Nadhim Zahawi, a British member of the Conservative Party in the UK Parliament and of Kurdish origin, said a group of parliamentary members from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) will arrive in the Kurdistan Region on Saturday. 

The MPs, who were not named, would observe the referendum process all provinces of Kurdistan including Erbil, Duhok, Kirkuk, and Sulaimani.

Senior Kurdish officials have repeatedly requested foreign observers monitor the referendum to add weight to the people's decision whether to remain part of Iraq or secede as a newly-established country.

“The group will report back the process and result of the referendum to the UK Parliament,” Zahawi said, stating the high-level observation will monitor transparency during the voting process and report its findings to the UK and the international community.

Zahawi’s interview coincided with the UK Secretary of Defense Michael Fallon's visit to the Kurdistan Region to discuss the fight against the Islamic State (IS) and attempts to persuade the Kurdish leadership to postpone the referendum.

The British MP criticized the UK government for speaking against the vote, asserting the UK and other states cannot deny or reject the rights of the people in the Kurdistan Region.

“The UK and other countries who are opposing the Kurdistan Region's referendum are swimming against the tide,” he said, referring to their position in regards to that of the will of the Kurdistan Region's people.

He noted that it is a fundamental right awarded to every individual to decide what they want, and not “for others to tell them what to do.”

Zahawi mentioned that he strongly doubts the Kurdistan Region's referendum would affect the global fight against IS as Peshmerga forces have successfully been at the forefront of the war against the jihadist group.

“I don’t believe there will be any changes in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)’s efforts in battling IS,” he continued. “The KRG will remain a major partner in defeating IS after the referendum.”

On Sep. 11, Zahawi along with other UK Members of Parliament participated in a panel organized by Kurdistan 24 and the Centre for Kurdish Progress in the House of Commons under the title of “The Kurdistan Region: A Strategic Ally in a Tough Neighborhood.”

“I passionately believe in the right for all human beings to decide on their destiny, and Kurds are no different. A fortified Kurdistan will be in a better position to stand up against threats,” he said during the panel.

The President of the Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani, has insisted on holding the vote despite the opposition of the neighboring and the US-led western camp. He has stated that the people of the Kurdistan Region have the right to democratically and peacefully decide on their future.

During the interview, Zahawi disagreed that the birth of an independent Kurdish state would in any way destabilize the Middle East, indicating that the Kurdistan Region has proven to be a factor of stability and security in the area in the past decades.

Zahawi also highlighted the blossoming democracy in the Kurdistan Region, “especially in such a tough neighborhood” – the Middle East – where different ethnic and religious groups live in peace and social harmony across Kurdistan.

According to the Independent High Elections and Referendum Commission (IHERC), over five million people are eligible in the Kurdistan Region and the Diaspora to vote in the referendum, including in the disputed territories.


Editing by G.H. Renaud

(Interview conducted by Yadgar Fayaq)