ASIA/IRAQ - Iraq's Kurds to hold September independence referendum

Thursday, 8 June 2017 refugees   geopolitics   oriental churches

Erbil (Agenzia Fides) - Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region will hold a referendum on independence on September 25. The decision, aimed at provoking the negative reaction of the central government in Baghdad was taken last night Wednesday, June 7, during a summit between President Masud Barzani and members of the government of the autonomous Region.
The prospect of a unilateral secession of Iraqi Kurdistan, and its transformation into an independent state entity, also refers to Christian communities in the region.
The announcement of the referendum in September has already provoked the reaction of the leaders of the "Sons of Mesopotamia" Party (Abnaa al Nahrain), political formation animated by militant Christian Assyrians, who consider the use of the referendum to impose a political institutional change inappropriate and insufficient which should be achieved through longer processes, planning the steps with the authorities in Baghdad and supranational political bodies. The leaders of the small Assyrian Party - who have a representative in the Baghdad National Parliament and one in the regional parliament of the autonomous
Iraqi Kurdistan region - point out that after the deportations and suffering of the peoples of northern Iraq any political move likely to cause further lacerations seems inappropriate, while it is necessary to return the homes of the displaced - including tens of thousands of Christians - who had to flee their lands conquered by the jihadists of the Islamic State (Daesh) and had largely found refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, June 7, before the announcement of the referendum, a meeting of the Chaldean Bishops held in Erbil under the Presidency of Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako reiterated the call to all Christians to overcome confessional divisions on political ground, presenting themselves in a unified manner as a "Christian component" in contacts and in relations with political forces and institutions.
The draft of a referendum to sanction the full independence of Iraqi Kurdistan had long been wanted by the political leaders of the Autonomous Region. Almost a year ago (see Fides 19/7/2016) Kurdish leader Masud Barzani, President of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, had also talked about it at a meeting held in Erbil with representatives of political parties and political parties formed by leaders and Christian activists working in the area. During the meeting President Barzani’s intention to involve these political groups in the preparation of a preliminary plan on the future political structure of the region, before the reconquest of Mosul and the liberation of the lands at that time controlled by Daesh appeared to be very clear. The hypothesis prefigured in those talks was to make the contiguous area of Nineveh Plain an "autonomous province with a Christian majority"; and then allow the people of the province to choose, through a referendum, their own political framework under the government of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan rather than under the federal government based in Baghdad. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 8/6/2018)