Christians support referendum, want autonomy in Kurdistan
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – Christians in the Kurdistan Region will participate in the independence referendum and hope for autonomy if Kurdistan becomes an independent state, said a Christian official on Saturday.
Kurdish officials in the Kurdistan Region have brought the option of an independence referendum to the table. According to the President of Kurdistan Masoud Barzani, a referendum will be held by the end of 2016.
Christians, as one of the religious groups in the Kurdistan Region, have expressed their support for the referendum and hope for autonomy within the state of Kurdistan in the future.
“We support the referendum, and we also have a plan for post-independence in Kurdistan,” Romio Hakkari, the Secretary-General of the Assyrian Bet al-Nahrain Party, told Kurdistan24.
“We hope, and we are almost sure that Assyrians, Chaldeans and Turkmen people in the Kurdistan Region will have the right to autonomy in the constitution of Kurdistan as a state in the future,” Hakkari said.
According to Khalid Jamal Albert, director of the Kurdistan Region’s office of Christian affairs, the number of Christians in the Kurdistan Region is estimated to be around 300,000 – 350,000 people. Many of them fled from other parts of Iraq to the Region following the emergence of the Islamic State (IS) in northern Iraq in June 2014.
Maria Jameel, a Christian citizen who resides in Ainkawa district of Erbil Province, told Kurdistan24 that she supports a Kurdish referendum and called on other Christian citizens not to miss this “golden” opportunity.
“I support the independence referendum,” Jameel said. “Christians will gain more if they become part of an independent Kurdistan.”
She hoped the Christians in the Region would calculate the advantages of Kurdistan becoming a state.
Jameel stated that Christians have not gained much in being part of Iraq. “Tens of thousands of Christian people have been displaced in the last few years in Iraq. Christians feel safer and more secure in the Kurdistan Region rather than Iraq.”
“In Iraq, we are the minority, but in the Kurdistan Region, we are not considered as such,” she added.
On Dec. 25, 2015, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani participated in Christmas celebrations in the Assyrian Church located in Ainkawa and stated, “Christians are an indigenous people in the Kurdistan Region and are not considered a minority.”
Reporting by Mewan Dolamari and Nawras Abdullah
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany