Iraqi Kurds vote in referendum on independence from Baghdad
ARBIL - The Associated Press
AFP photoPolls opened in the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) on Sept. 25 as Iraqi Kurds cast ballots on whether to support independence from Baghdad.
Millions are expected to vote across the three provinces that make up the Kurdish autonomous region, as well as residents in disputed territories - areas claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurds, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
The vote is being carried out despite mounting regional opposition to the move and the United States has warned the vote will likely destabilize the region amid the fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Baghdad has also come out strongly against the referendum, demanding on Sept. 24 that all airports and border crossings in the Kurdish region be handed back to federal government control.
In a televised address on Sept. 24 night, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said “the referendum is unconstitutional. It threatens Iraq, peaceful coexistence among Iraqis and is a danger to the region.”
“We will take measures to safeguard the nation’s unity and protect all Iraqis,” he added.
Earlier on Sept. 24, KRG President Massoud Barzani said during a press conference in Arbil that he believed the voting would be peaceful, though he acknowledged that the path to independence would be “risky.”
“We are ready to pay any price for our independence,” he said.
Initial results from the poll are expected on Sept. 26, with the official results to be announced later in the week.