President Masoud Barzani attends a rally in support of the Kurdish independence referendum on September 15, 2017, a day after the US, UN and the UK presented an alternative to the vote. Photo: Rudaw video
AMEDI, Kurdistan Region – No alternative that can replace the independence referendum has been offered, Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani said one day after the US, UN, and UK presented what they called an “alternative” in an effort to convince Erbil to postpone the vote.
“To this date, we have not received an alternative that can take the place of the referendum,” Barzani told a pro-referendum rally in Amedi, Friday evening.
He also slammed those claiming the referendum does not have legitimacy.
“The referendum’s legitimacy comes from the people of Kurdistan, not from the outside,” Barzani said to the cheering crowd, waving Kurdistan flags.
Brett McGurk, the US Presidential Envoy to the anti-ISIS Global Coalition, said on Thursday that the referendum does have “international legitimacy” and the US holds the same view as the Global Coalition that considers the vote “ill-advised” and “ill-timed.”
The US Envoy said at a press conference in Erbil that their alternative is one that will be acceptable to all sides, without getting into details.
Barzani met the visiting delegation on Thursday at a coordination center for the war against ISIS.
The Kurdistan president said at the rally it was a disappointment the Global Coalition did not take into consideration the Peshmerga’s contribution to the war.
“We thought that in reward to the people of Kurdistan – as a result of the blood of all these martyrs and the Peshmerga breaking the myth of ISIS – they will say that you the people of Kurdistan, it is your right. Since they do not take that into consideration, we do not take theirs either, not even a bit,” Barzani said.
The Peshmerga have lost about 2,000 soldiers and another about 10,000 have been injured since the war against ISIS began in 2014.
Barzani told the crowd that while there are risks associated with the vote, “the risk of waiting... is far more dangerous.”
It is an issue of will, he said. “When your will is strong, then the achievements are in reach.”
He said that the Kurdish people have paid the price for independence in blood “ten times more” than is necessary, explaining that the referendum in itself has never been an objective of the Kurdish leadership.
“The referendum is a tool to achieve independence. Referendum is not the objective. Independence is our objective,” Barzani said in clear terms before addressing those who have demanded the vote be delayed. “Come forward, bring us an alternative in place of the referendum. Then the referendum is not needed at all.”
He also slammed recent votes of the Iraqi parliament rejecting the referendum and removing Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim. The Iraqi parliament is giving room to “chauvinists,” he said, who do not agree with true partnership and consensus, the foundations of the new Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003.
He said the Iraqi parliament has violated the same constitution that Kurds worked hard to receive national approval after the invasion.
He explained that he lost members of his bodyguards while in Baghdad to draft the Iraqi constitution in 2005, when his place of residence was attacked by rockets 36 times. Despite this, he and other Kurdish officials stayed in the Iraqi capital to complete the constitution.
Barzani then said in a defiant message that the people of Kurdistan do not take orders from such a parliament that has sidelined the Kurdish minority.
“We also tell them that your decision will not reach Kurdistan. So don't even bother,” Barzani said to the Iraqi parliament.
The Iraqi government is opposed to the Kurdistan referendum and the parliament gave Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi directions to take “all measures” to cancel the vote that is to take place 10 days from now.
Last updated at 6:43 pm