World, Middle East

Iraq’s Christians wary of planned Kurdish regional poll

Sept. 25 referendum will see residents of Kurdish region vote on whether or not to declare independence from Iraq

22.08.2017
Iraq’s Christians wary of planned Kurdish regional poll FILE PHOTO

By Ali Mukarrem Garip

KIRKUK, Iraq

Christians living in the northern Iraqi cities of Kirkuk and Mosul have voiced opposition to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)’s upcoming referendum on regional independence.

“Most of Iraq’s Christian community opposes a regional referendum,” Imad Yohanna, deputy secretary-general of the Baghdad-based Assyrian Democratic Movement, told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.

Yohanna, who is also a member of Iraq’s parliament, said: “We reject this referendum; we don’t view it as beneficial to our people’s future.”

The MP went on to point out that numerous Christians had had to flee their homes in recent years due to the Daesh terrorist group’s activities in the region.

“Holding a referendum in areas to which they [i.e., Christians] have yet to return would be an injustice and an exploitation of internally displaced people,” he said.

Slated for Sept. 25, the non-binding referendum will see residents of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region vote on whether or not to declare independence from Iraq.

Baghdad, for its part, rejects the planned poll, saying it could adversely affect the ongoing fight against Daesh, which -- despite a string of recent military defeats -- still maintains a significant presence in the country.

The Iraqi government also believes that the poll would contravene Iraq’s 2005 constitution and would be “of no political or economic benefit to the region’s Kurds”.

Turkey, too, rejects the planned referendum, insisting that the region’s stability is inextricably linked to the maintenance of Iraq’s territorial integrity.

The U.S. has likewise voiced concern that the poll could serve as a “distraction” from other regional issues, especially the fight against terrorism and the political stabilization of post-Daesh Iraq.

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