World in View: Kurdish referendum

September 3, 2017

From the September-October 2017 issue of News & Letters

Iraqi Kurds are scheduled to vote on Sept. 25 in a referendum on independence for Iraqi Kurdistan. The referendum is being promoted by President Masoud Barzani and is expected to pass easily.

Kurds are considered to be the world’s largest stateless ethnic group. Kurdish territory is divided between a number of countries. Iraqi Kurds have had a measure of autonomy since the introduction of a no-fly zone against Saddam Hussein’s genocidal regime in 1991.

Syrian Kurds are also experiencing a new autonomy with the creation of Rojava by the Democratic Union Party.


Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, has continued as president even though his term expired two years ago. He is grooming his son Masrour, who has a terrible human rights record, to succeed him.

Barzani is close to Turkey’s President Erdogan, who is at war with Turkish Kurds, and who would attempt to dominate an independent Kurdish state. There is also a Kurdish insurgency in Iran—so that regime would be unlikely to welcome independence.

The U.S. opposes independence because it is satisfied with the undemocratic status quo, and it is already militarily involved. A conflict among these states and parties would see U.S. forces in the eye of the storm.

—Gerry Emmett

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