A Kurdish woman helps tie on a flag of Kurdistan fir a fellow pilgrim, prior to getting onto a flight from Erbil bound to Saudia Arabia, to take part in the annual Hajj pilgrimage. File photo: getty images/Safin Hamed
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A Kurdish Islamic body has expressed their support for the planned referendum on independence, saying it is a “national and religious” right of the people of Kurdistan to seek an independent nation.
The Islamic Scholars Union of Kurdistan, a group representing Islamic preachers, threw their weight behind Erbil’s bid for independence on Wednesday after a meeting of its executive.
"The members of the Central Council of the Scholars Union were in unanimous agreement to support the referendum in the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdistani areas outside the Region,” a statement from the Union read, using another term for the disputed areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad, including the multi-ethnic, oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
"We hope it will be a gate towards the independence of the nation of Kurdistan," the statement added.
The Union has members from across the political spectrum, as well as independent preachers.
Islamic parties in Kurdistan, including the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and the Islamic Group of Kurdistan (Komal), each have their own religious bodies representing their Islamic preachers.
The KIU has already expressed their support for the referendum and have a sent a representative to the High Referendum Council established in multi-party political meetings.
Komal has so far refused to attend these meetings, instead calling for a reactivated parliament.
The Union’s statement called on the political parties in Kurdistan to put aside their individual interests for the sake of higher national interests, adding that they should seek political and social reconciliation in order to better conduct the referendum.
It also said that an independent Kurdistan would live in a more peaceful way with Iraq and its neighbours, all Muslim majority states.
Earlier in the month, a shouting match broke out between representatives of Kurdish Islamic parties and Iraqi Shiites when the subject of the planned independence referendum came up during a major conference in Iran.
The verbal fight began when Iraqi Shiite representatives at the ninth annual Islamic TV and radio conference in the Iranian city of Mashhad described the vote as an “American and Israeli plot.”
“Unfortunately, a number of TV managers, Arabic and Islamic media representatives, especially the Iraqi Shiites, described South Kurdistan’s referendum as an American and Israeli plot,” Dr. Hogir Gharib, a member of the KIU media agency’s delegation, told Rudaw at the time.
Gharib added: “Some of the attendants deemed the referendum a means to divide Islamic society and said it is against Islam.”
KIU and Komal both attended the meeting.
As a show of defiance, Faruq Ali, CEO of Komal’s Payam TV, who can speak both Arabic and Persian, told conference attendees that he chose to speak in Kurdish, saying that Kurds, like every other nation, Islamic or otherwise, have the right to have their own country.