Influential Kurdish leader and former president of Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani, reiterated that they will never give up on their “god-given right” to self-determination and statehood.
“The people and leaders of Kurdistan will never retreat from the efforts related to referendum and independence. This is a natural right granted to these people by God, not the Iraqi rulers,” Barzani pointed out in a speech at the eighth congress of Kurdistan Democratic Youth Union.
The Kurdish leader, who spearheaded the independence referendum last year, reminded that the Kurds have never posed a threat to the people living with them in the region, but they regularly came under attacks at the hand of the oppressors.
“We’ve never had a problem with other people, but with their rulers,” he stated.
The Kurdistan Region held a referendum last year on 25th September to seek independence. It received 93% “Yes” votes, but could not reach its goal due to the tensions between Erbil and Baghdad.
On 16th October 2017, after secret agreements between the Iraqi government and a faction within the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Iraqi army and pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias of Hashd al-Shaabi attacked the Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk, and took over the Kurdish province overnight.
Barzani stated in his speech that the “treason” on 16th October created an obstacle to the results of the referendum. However, he noted, the aspiration for statehood lives on.
According to Barzani, who also presides the largest Kurdish political party (Kurdistan Democratic Party), they attempted the independence process to be smooth and peaceful, “but it became evident that they do not accept the Kurds even as citizens, and they violated the constitution which guarantees the rights of all the peoples”.
“The people of Kurdistan and its leadership tried to proceed with independence through peaceful means, but the Iraqi rulers did not accept it, and they responded with fire.”
Barzani said that, since the 2017 referendum was not against Iraq’s constitution, the people of Kurdistan will not abandon their aspiration for statehood, and will not give up on the results of the referendum.