President Masoud Barzani attended a rally in support of the Kurdish independence referendum in Zakho, near Duhok on September 14, 2017. It is the the third city outside of Erbil where the president campaigns for the Kurdish vote set for September 25. Photo: Rudaw/Aram Sabah
ZAKHO, Kurdistan Region — Thousands of people in the city of Zakho in the northwest of the Kurdistan Region and President Masoud Barzani attended a rally in favor of the independence referendum, as the Kurdish president insisted that the vote will take place on its stated time of “September 25.”
Attendees clad in the green, white, red, and yellow colors of Kurdistan’s flag filled the football stadium and spilled onto the pitch.
The Kurdish President told the crowd that they are going to cast their votes on “September 25,” the first indication that the Kurdish leadership have not yet agreed to postpone the independence vote, despite a meeting earlier in the day with foreign representatives who presented an “alternative” to postpone the vote.
“Referendum is a tool, not an objective. The objective is independence. The objective is for us to determine our fate,” Barzani told the crowd in the Zakho International Stadium whose capacity is 20,000.
Prior to going to Zakho, diplomats from the United Kingdom, United States and United Nations met with Barzani at a coordination center in Duhok, just 5 kilometers away from the frontline when the war against ISIS began in 2014.
“The visiting delegation presented an alternative in place of the holding the referendum on September 25. President Barzani received the alternative and welcomed constructive dialogue. But regarding the referendum and the presented alternative, he said that ‘it is not just my decision, and we will discuss this issue with the leadership of Kurdistan and will announce our stance in the near future,” the statement from the presidency read.
Barzani, who has attended several rallies outside of the capital of Erbil and most recently in Akre, has been an ardent supporter of Kurdish independence.
He explained in Zakho that any “alternative” that does not guarantee the people of Kurdistan an independent state is not acceptable, something Barzani said they have been demanding from world powers since day one.
He said the two sides exchanged their views in the meeting.
“Their view is clear,” Barzani said of the visiting delegation. “They say ‘we are with the right of the people of Kurdistan. But our view is that now is not the right time for referendum for fear of problems.’ ”
“We told them, before now and today, if there is a better alternative, our people would also agree. But if there is no alternative. We will hold our referendum no matter what what will happen,” said Barzani with determination.
He revealed that there are many sides in contact with the Kurdish leadership to seek a solution to the row between the Iraqi and Kurdish government, “Even the [UN] Security Council,” Barzani said.
He said of those who call to postpone the vote: If they offer a “better and a more guaranteed alternative, then the leadership of Kurdistan would make its decision. But if the objective is just to delay the referendum, the referendum will not be postponed.”
Barzani slammed the votes by the Iraqi parliament Tuesday and Thursday that respectively rejected the Kurdish referendum and voted to remove the Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim, a Kurd, from his post after the oil-rich province voted to join the independence vote.
Barzani called the decisions by the Iraqi parliament a clear example that best manifests the rule of a “political majority” whereby Shiite and Sunni Arabs who form a majority in the parliament continuously and consistently vote against the Kurdish minority.
Barzani added that they will determine the fate of Kurdistan “on September 25,” as he said that the majority of parties in Kurdistan agreed to the stated date and that no one single person or party can change that.
Barzani’s remarks mean that the High Referendum Council is the right authority to study the presented alternative. The Council first announced in a June meeting to hold the referendum on September 25.