Barzani: Time to End Forced Inclusion of Kurds in Iraq


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Kurdistan Region president Masoud Barzani stated that Kurdistan Region exercises its right for independence through the referendum in September, asking the international community respect the "democratic decision of Kurdistan's people."

In an article which was published by the Washington Post on Wednesday, Barzani touches on the factors pushing Kurds to plan referendum and assures the neighbors that the survey will not alter their borders.


"On Sept. 25, the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will decide in a binding referendum if they want independence or to remain part of Iraq," President Barzani writes," The vote will resolve a conflict as old as the Iraqi state itself between the aspirations of the Kurdish people and a government in Baghdad that has long treated Kurds as less than full citizens of the country."
He stated the survey does not threaten anyone, rather it "may make a volatile region more stable."


"It will not alter the borders of any neighboring state and, if done right, will make for a much stronger relationship between Iraqís Arabs and Kurds."


President Barzani also points out that Kurdistan authorities are ready to do everything possible "to accommodate Iraqi concerns in the likely event that the vote is for independence."
In his piece for the Washington Post, Barzani expands on the history of Kurds' struggle for independence in the 20th century and the annexation of their lands to Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq against their will.


The focus then is moved to the Kurds from the Kurdistan Region who for decades hoped for a real power-sharing with the successive Iraqi government but instead suffered atrocities at the hands of Iraqi administrations, including those installed after the fall of Baath regime in 2003.
President Barzani alludes to the Iraqi constitution drafted after the fall of the Baath regime as the key guarantee to protect the autonomy for Kurds and the rights of all Iraqis.


However, he adds, the constitution has been violated by the Iraqi governments for 14 years.
"Fourteen years later, Baghdad has failed to implement key provisions of that constitution, and we have good reason to believe that it never will," Barzani states, "This failure of the political system is also responsible for the drastic deterioration of relations between Sunnis and Shiites that led to the rise of the Islamic State, with disastrous consequences for all Iraqis, including the Kurds."


In another part of his article, Barzani explains the claim that Iraqi unity is to better protect the Iraqi citizens "is not supported by experience."


He refers to the Iraqi government's denying military and financial support to the Kurdistan Region at the time of Islamic State (IS) offensive against Kurdistan in 2014.


The cooperation between Kurdistan Peshmerga forces and Iraqi army in the battle against IS "provides a model for how Kurds and Arabs might cooperate in the future," Barzani believes "the Peshmerga and the Iraqi army have been in an alliance of equals. Each army has its own chain of command."


He also promises that Kurdistan's cooperation with the other major actors in the battle against IS will continue.


Regarding the steps following the imminent referendum, Barzani writes after negotiations with Baghdad and consultation with the neighbors and the international community the timing and modalities for Kurdistan independence will be determined.


"In our negotiations with Baghdad, we will be practical. The issue of what territory joins Kurdistan will be the most contentious issue in the separation," Barzani notes, while he deems the referendum will help fully implement the Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution which the federal government has failed to enforce before its deadline on Dec. 31, 2007.


"Nearly ten years later, we propose to give them that opportunity. We wish to incorporate into Kurdistan only those territories where the people overwhelmingly want to be part of Kurdistan as expressed in a free vote," Kurdistan president states, adding Kurdistan does not wish for a long-lasting territorial dispute with Iraq that "could poison our future relations."


President Barzani also highlights the diversity of Kurdistan, saying "Kurdistan is home to Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen and Shabaks whose separate identities are recognized in our laws."
In his concluding words, Kurdistan president writes "after a century of trying, it is time to recognize that the forced inclusion of the Kurds in Iraq has not worked for us or for the Iraqis."
He also asks the US and the international community "respect the democratic decision of Kurdistanís people," for the interest of both Iraqis and people of Kurdistan.
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