Middle East

Iraqi Kurd party warns against planned regional poll

Now’s not the time for referendum on Kurdish regional independence, Gorran Movement spokesman tells Anadolu Agency

Ekip   | 25.08.2017
Iraqi Kurd party warns against planned regional poll Shorsh Haji, spokesman for Gorran Movement

Iraq

By Idris Okuducu and Haydar Hadi

SULAYMANIYAH/BAGHDAD

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Friday, Shorsh Haji, a spokesman for the Gorran Movement, an Iraqi Kurdish political party, explained why his movement opposed the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)’s planned referendum on independence.

“The timing is not right for this referendum,” Haji said. “Nor does the KRG have sufficient infrastructure to support a full-fledged state after the poll.”

The non-binding referendum, which is slated for Sept. 25, “will do more harm than good”, the party official asserted.

“Our priority now is survival; most of the projects in the region have ground to a halt due to the current financial crisis,” he said. “Public-sector salaries [in the Kurdish region] are now only being paid intermittently.”

“The region certainly has the right to conduct a poll on independence,” he added. “But it doesn’t have to be done right away.”

“The Gorran Movement does not want the referendum to be held on Sept. 25; we think this will only lead to more problems,” Haji said.

When asked if Gorran supported a “yes” or a “no” vote, he said that the party had yet to reach a final decision in this regard.

Haji went on to warn that the KRG’s current economic infrastructure was insufficient to support a modern state.

An independent Kurdish region, he said, will be “heavily dependent on Turkey, Iraq and Iran -- all of whom are opposed to the referendum”.

“The people of the Kurdish region cannot afford to alienate these countries,” he added.

Iraqis skeptical

Anadolu Agency also spoke with Iraqis of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, most of whom warned that the planned referendum was likely to divide and weaken Iraq and harm the country’s historical social fabric.

“The Kurds are our brothers,” Ahmed Saad, an Arab Shia, told Anadolu Agency. “But this referendum is tantamount to treason against the Iraqi state.”

“It will only serve to divide the country,” he added. “What if Iraq’s Basra province also wants independence?”

Khalid Abd, a Sunni Arab, said Iraq’s priority should be the fight against terrorism -- “not referendums on independence”.

Jassem Kifahi, an Iraqi Kurd, urged residents of the Kurdish region to “side with Iraq”.

“Our country is better -- stronger -- when it stands together as one,” he said.

Raed Mihanna, a Christian resident of Baghdad, warned that the planned referendum could further complicate the many problems already plaguing the region.

“Turkey, Iran and Syria could all be adversely affected [by the poll],” he said. “And this would be an affront to our shared Mesopotamian legacy.”

*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara

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