Iraqi Turkmens urge boycott of Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum
KIRKUKIraqi Turkmen political parties have reiterated their opposition to an upcoming referendum on Kurdish regional independence, calling on supporters to boycott the Sept. 25 poll.
At a press conference in Kirkuk on Sept. 9, Ershad Salihi, head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, read out a joint statement signed by Kirkuk-based Turkmen parties articulating their objections to the planned referendum, Anadolu Agency reported.
Threatening not to recognize the referendum results, the parties described the upcoming poll as “a tool being used against the region’s Turkmen,” according to the text of the statement.
“Iraq is currently going through a critical period,” Salihi declared.
“Victory against the Daesh terrorist group is on the horizon,” he added, “but Kirkuk’s [Daesh-held] Hawija district -- and other districts -- must still be liberated.”
Along with the Iraqi Turkmen Front, the joint statement was signed by the Turkmeneli Party, the Turkmen Justice Party, the Turkmen Determination Party, the Turkmen Loyalty Party, the Turkmen Islamic Union Party, and the Turkmen Nationalist Community Party.
Slated for Sept. 25, the non-binding referendum will see residents of northern Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) -- including the disputed Kirkuk province -- vote on whether or not to declare independence from Baghdad.
The Iraqi government, however, rejects the planned poll, saying it could adversely affect the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and th Levant (ISIL), which -- despite a string of recent defeats -- still maintains a significant presence in Iraq.
Baghdad also believes that the poll would violate Iraq’s 2005 constitution and will be “of no political or economic benefit to the region’s Kurds.”
Turkey, too, rejects the planned referendum, insisting that the region’s stability is inextricably linked to the maintenance of Iraq’s unity and territorial integrity.
Washington, meanwhile, has likewise voiced concern that the poll could serve as a “distraction” from other pressing regional issues, especially the fight against terrorism and the stabilization of post-ISIL Iraq.