The moments of referendum for
Independence of Iraqi Kurdistan from Iraq are looming despite fierce opposition
from Iraqi Government, United States (U.S.) and neighboring countries which also
hold significant Kurdish Population i.e. Turkey, Iran and Syria.
Kurds are community of around 30 million people inhabited in vast adjacent
border areas among Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. This land is rich in Petroleum
and Mineral reserves. 6 million Kurds –almost 20 percent of Iraqi population -
are living in Iraq. They have their own legal government by the name of
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) under the Kurd Leader Massoud Barzani.
The results of upcoming referendum are crystal clear. Kurds are going to vote
for an Independent Country, Kurdistan. The decision of Referendum is of KRG, and
not of central government in Baghdad. Though Iraqi Kurds will not be able to win
independence immediately after referendum but that will be the onset of their
final march towards Independent Kurdistan, and sadly for that they might have to
walk through a deadly pathway in an already complicated and devastated region.
When there are still threats of resurgence of Islamic State of Syria and Levant
(ISIS), Syrian Civil War is going on at hostile pace in the presence of external
powers like U.S., Russia, Iran and Turkey, Referendum for Independence of Iraqi
Kurdistan will stoke the grim situation further.
Referendum for Kurdistan would be just a new addition to the list of existing
prolonged issues, the region is already facing. It will stir regional ethnic and
sectarian conflict. Though Independence vote is a Right of Kurds but the time
for this Right is just like adding fuel to fire. Similar thing happened in East
Pakistan, now Bangladesh, in the election of 1970 when prolonged deprivation of
Rights of Bengalis by West Pakistani Governments produced such a situation that
resulted in the victory of anti-Pakistan Awami League there and that ultimately
got liberation from Pakistan with the help of India after a series of deadly
incidents including War of 1971. On that time if General Yahya Khan, then
President, had postponed the elections and focused on solving the issues faced
by Bengalis, then situation could have been a different one. A kind of similar
scenarios seems to be developing after Kurdistan Referendum. There would be more
blood, turmoil and perilous effects of all incidents will last for long as we
see most of Bangladeshis still hate Pakistanis.
Independence of Iraqi Kurdistan will not remain restricted to Iraq. Syria,
Turkey and Iran would see similar uprisings on part of their Kurdish
Populations. Their Kurds will get support and inspiration from Iraqi Kurds. At
later stages internal clashes with Kurds may escalate into large scale regional
wars. This pathway may develop similar law and order crisis as seen in Libya and
Egypt. The result is very clear, there will be more devastation, killings and
this portion of Middle East will be burning.
Now, if the situation is analyzed on Iraqi Kurds perspective then we see they
have long been oppressed by Iraqi Governments. Former Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein gassed them and buried in mass graves on charges of espionage. Though
era of Saddam Hussein has gone but pains and miseries of such incidents leave
lasting effects on the memories of affectees. If there is any strong government
in Baghdad then Kurdish dream of Independence will go in vain. Kurds are
watching this time as an opportunity when Baghdad is encircled by a lot of
issues and Kurds are holding strong offices in their Kurdistan Region.
Massoud Barzani, now 71 years old, has been President of the Iraqi Kurdistan
Region since 2005. For Barzani and his close aides, this seems to be the last
powerful opportunity to pave the path of freedom. The secession referendum is
inevitable now and Kurds’ ‘Yes’ to freedom can’t be converted to ‘No’. The
biggest challenge now is to keep the Iraqis and Kurds peaceful and non-violent.
Though it seems impossible but efforts on part of leaderships may reduce the
Jawad Akram is an International Affairs Analyst. He has done Masters in