TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Political parties and people in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region north of Iraq are very much divided over holding the referendum for independence, specially in sensitive Kirkuk region.
A day before the referendum for independence and despite opposition raised by the Iraqi central government, the UN and the international community in particular the Iraqi neighbors, the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is insisting on holding the referendum.
Opposition with the referendum is not limited to foreign countries, the Iraqi neighbors or the federal government since a few Kurdish parties and people are voicing opposition to the move.
Many Kurds in Iraq feel the time is not right for an independence vote.
Shaswar Abdulwahid Qadir, a political activist who has established a “Not for Now” campaign against referendum says the referendum is being held to distract from pressing problems that he argues the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has failed to address.
Some Kurds object because, they argue, Kurdish president Masoud Barzani is using it to entrench the rule of his KDP whose struggle for pre-eminence with its rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), erupted into civil war in the 1990s.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan which is the second largest party in the region, the Gorran Movement (Movement for Change) and also the Kurdistan Islamic group are also among the parties that opposed to referendum.
The PUK in a statement released on Saturday opposed with holding the referendum.
Bafel Talabani, a senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the second largest party in Iraq's Kurdish region, announced on Facebook yesterday that his party had agreed the referendum should be "postponed".
"PUK opposes holding referendum for now, and accepts a US alternative plan for negotiations", Mr Talabani, the eldest son of former Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, said in the post, calling for “serious discussions” with Baghdad.
A senior Kurdish official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Mala Bakhtiyar have also told reporters in Sulaymaniyah that they believe the Kurdish leadership should take the “alternative” offered by the US, UK, and UN “very seriously”.
”We from the PUK believe that the alternative should be taken very seriously, “ he added, noting that the “alternative is to solve problems in Iraq, not to take a seat at the United Nations.”
A day before holding the referendum, the disputed areas in particular, the oil-rich Kirkuk are in turmoil.
The PUK-related officials in Kirkuk have expressed their opposition with holding the referendum in the region.
The Kurdistan 24 TV Network has declared that the Kurdistan Region's Independent High Electoral and Referendum Commission (IHREC) in Kirkuk has been encircled by the PUK security forces.
There are also reports of clashes between the PUK and KDP in Kirkuk, a day before the referendum.
Tensions among Kurdish factions has roots in history. The Iraqi Kurdish region experienced a civil war between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party in mid-1990s. According to some estimates however, upwards of 8,000 civilians alone could have been killed throughout the more than three years of warfare.