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Kurdish diaspora eager to vote but locked out of online process

By A.C. Robinson 4/9/2017
Screenshot of the instructional video explaining how to register for e-voting using the ration card.
Screenshot of the instructional video explaining how to register for e-voting using the ration card.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurds in the diaspora are eager to have their say in the September 25 independence referendum, but are largely frustrated with the e-vote registration process, many saying they do not have the required documents.

Kurds living abroad can vote in the referendum via e-voting and online registration is now open. Voters wanting to register need to submit their ration card plus one of the following through the website: their Iraqi identity card, Iraqi passport, Iraqi citizenship form, or the Iraqi national card. 

Iraq has not held a census for decades so relies on the ration card to determine place of origin of citizens. The cards were introduced during the United Nations’ Oil-for-Food Programme in the mid-1990s. 

Possessing the ration card or “food form” as it’s known in the Kurdistan Region, is essential, head of the Kurdistan Region’s electoral commission, Handren Mohammed, told Rudaw on Sunday.

Kurds in the diaspora believe that the requirement of the ration card is unrealistic as many have lived abroad for several years, even decades, and no longer have this document.

Comments and posts on social media reveal Kurds’ frustration and anger with the process. Rudaw English reached out to some to hear their thoughts. 

Jana, who lives in Serbia with her Serbian husband and son, feels that Kurds having their own country is extremely important. “Freedom is everything,” she stated.

She hopes that her son, who holds a Serbian passport, will one day have a Kurdish one. “In school he is painting both the Serbian and Kurdish flags, but he can’t show Kurdistan as a country on the map. It’s breaking my heart,” she said.

“If people have any dignity at all they will vote for independence,” said Kawar from America. “I owe it to those who sacrificed their lives for me to be free.”

But some fear the online registration process will prevent them from casting their ballot. 

“I have many family members who were buried alive by Saddam’s Anfal campaign and I feel like this vote will put an end to everything that has been done to us in the past,” said Aram who now lives in Denmark.

He is “proud” to cast a ‘yes’ ballot, but does not have his Iraqi passport or other required documents, leaving him ineligible to vote.

Maya from Germany said that she would most definitely vote ‘yes’, but sadly she doesn’t hold Iraqi citizenship. “So that’s why I have hope in the people at home that they will vote ‘yes’,” she said.

Mustafa in the Netherlands has family members who have sacrificed themselves for a free Kurdistan and feels that it is an obligation to participate in the referendum. “I personally feel emotional and see my participation as the last service to their legacy,” he stated.

He feels that it is important for Kurdistan to become an independent nation, especially for those living in diaspora, “so that we might protect our people from genocide and marginalization for future generations.”

He suggested that “The best and most practical way for diaspora Kurds is to scan their Western passport in order to vote. All passports have mentioned birthplaces that can be used to validate the vote,” he said.

The electoral commission is aware of the documentation problem and will meet on Tuesday to discuss the matter, spokesperson Sherwan Zerar told Rudaw.

Online registration for Kurds living abroad opened on September 1 and will continue through September 7. Those living in diaspora will have access to cast their e-vote on September 23 from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Erbil time (GMT+3), two days before people in the Kurdistan Region.


serwan | 4/9/2017
Welcome to Kurdish bureaucracy where you need endless documents and tons of patience to complete even the most trivial of tasks.
R Ahmad | 5/9/2017
Most of us in diaspora don't have card ration number. I am shocked to see they have not taken notice of this. I was extremely disappointed when couldn't register myself,
JamKurd | 5/9/2017
Stupid stupid stupid. Who has a food coupon outside Iraq? Hey, Handren Mohammed, get your head out of the sand and smell the roses. If you want us to vote make it easy. Don't act like a bureaucrat! It should be enough to probide a picture of the passport of the country the Kurd resides in that shows his/her birth place to be able to vote. Turks do that when there is election in Turkey! All have dual citizenship. It is about time Kurds and Kurdustanis have that previlage. Think Handren Mohammad Think!!'

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