The Diyala Provincial Council building. Photo: Iraq's Economic Center
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - The Diyala Provincial Council voted on Tuesday against holding the independence referendum in the province on the same day the Iraqi parliament did, adding the session was boycotted by the Kurdish brotherhood faction.
“The Provincial Council of Diyala decided to refuse holding any referendum in Diyala within the border administration of the Diyala province,” the head of the Council Ali al-Daeni said at a press conference after the vote.
He said 18 out of the 29 members of the council took part in the vote. The Kurdish faction that boycotted the vote has only three members.
Daedni said that the vote was to avoid chaos and conflict that may happen if the referendum conducted in Diyala, especially given that the war against ISIS in his province just concluded.
The decision by the council stipulates that they refuse holding the referendum in places like Kahanqin, Mandali, Qara Tapa, and Jalawla — places which the Kurdish leadership is saying will be included in the independence vote but also falls into the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad.
Officials in the Kurdistan Region have said stated they will hold the referendum wherever the elected local councils in such places request from Erbil to join the historic vote scheduled for September 25.
Hoshyar Ismaeel, a member of the Kurdish Co-existence and Brotherhood Coalition faction in the Council, told Rudaw that “as Kurds, we boycotted the Provincial Council’s vote.”
Ismael claimed that after today’s Iraqi parliament session, members of the Diyala Provincial Council were forced to hold an urgent meeting to vote against the referendum.
Also on Tuesday, the Iraqi parliament rejected the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum in a vote that also authorized the Prime Minister to take measures against the Kurdish move.
All the Kurdish factions in the Iraqi parliament boycotted the vote.
The Diyala Provincial Council's vote also comes a day after armed men from Hashd al-Shaabi
paramilitary units (PMUs) called for a meeting of the Mandali Town Council and forced a vote cancelling an earlier vote by the council to join the Kurdistan independence referendum and remove the mayor on Tuesday.
And a number of Arab tribes and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, a Hashd al-Shaabi group, stormed the town hall on Sunday and removed the Kurdistan flag.
An Arab member of the Diyala Council said at the press conference that the town councils like in Mandali do not have the right to join areas outside the province without the approval of their provincial council, adding that they take measures against members of the Mandali council who voted against the “unity” of the Diyala province. He said they may even dissolve the Kurdish-led council in Mandali, if that is what it takes.
Mandali, some 450 kilometers south of Erbil, is part of the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad.
The Iraqi government considers the independence vote unconstitutional and Hashd al-Shaabi has said they oppose holding the referendum in areas they control.
Despite mounting pressures, the Kurdistan Region is determined to hold the referendum as President Masoud Barzani has repeatedly stated in meetings with local players and international delegates.
Note: Updated at 10 a.m on September 15 to add comments from Diyala Provincial Council and its members.