Bayan Sami Rahman (left), the KRG’s representative to the US, speaks at a press briefing at the United Nations on Friday. Photo: Rudaw video
NEW YORK – Amid calls from all directions for the Kurdistan Region to focus on the war against ISIS rather than a referendum on independence, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) representative to the United States asked why Kurds should have to wait and requested the international community and Iraq to recognize the democratic right of the people of Kurdistan.
“Why should we wait any longer? The people of Kurdistan have endured a century almost of conflict, of instability, of displacement, of genocide, of an uncertain future, of an uncertain destiny. We believe that an independent state would give us more rights, more protection for our people,” said Bayan Sami Rahman, the KRG’s representative to the US, in New York on Friday.
When asked why the Kurdistan Region had not held the vote before ISIS, Rahman said they had been dedicated to building a new Iraq, working hard to develop the Iraqi constitution and sending their best people to work with Baghdad.
But over time, it became clear that “this is not the Iraq we had hoped for.”
The dream of independence has been a long-held one for Kurds, she said. “It’s not something that we woke up to today or yesterday. Our fathers and forefathers have fought for this. This is a historic, national issue, and all of the parties, most of the parties, are united on the subject of the referendum. It is not a decision by one leader or one party.”
Rahman made her comments during a press conference at the United Nations, the first such briefing of a KRG official at the UN, according to Niyaz Barzani, special advisor to the KRG’s representation in the US.
Assuaging concerns that the referendum could distract Kurds from the war against ISIS, Rahman said, “The Peshmerga and the Kurdistan Regional Government are utterly focused on defeating ISIS. This is our priority and we do not take our eye off the ball whatever else is happening in our relationship with Baghdad, in our conversations in the region. Defeating ISIS is our priority.”
She stressed that the vote, set for September 25, will take place only in the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq and will not affect Kurdish populations in neighbouring countries.
After the vote, Rahman was very clear saying it would be the responsibility of the KRG to act on the outcome and negotiate the matter with Baghdad.
“This is not an opinion poll. We already know the opinion of the people of Kurdistan. This is a serious matter – it is a binding referendum. By that, what I mean is that once the people’s voice has been heard, it’s incumbent on the Kurdistan Regional Government, on the leadership and the political parties to then… negotiate that with Baghdad.”
The outcome, however, she stressed, would be achieved “through peace, dialogue, and negotiation.”
Asked about the possibility of Kurds in the diaspora voting in the referendum, Rahman said it is the aim of the KRG to facilitate that, though the mechanism has not been set yet.