Kirkuk Governor Najmadin Karim speaks to reporters on Wednesday. Photo: Rudaw TV
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region — Kirkuk will “surely” take part in the anticipated Kurdish independence referendum to be held in 2017, Kirkuk Governor Najmadin Karim told reporters, adding that the decision falls on the Kurdish referendum committee.
“A committee has been set up for referendum, the people [on the committee] will take the final decision,” he told reporters on Wednesday morning. “When they take that decision, surely [a] referendum will take place in Kirkuk as well.”
In their last high-level meeting earlier in the month, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) announced they would form a seven-party committee to address the legal and technical requirements of a vote on Kurdistan independence.
The committee has not yet been set up yet due to major political differences, especially between the KDP and the Gorran (Change) movement.
The KDP is of the view that approval from the Kurdish parliament is not needed to call the referendum.
The Kurdish parliament has not convened since October 2015 when the security forces in Erbil, largely under the control of the KDP, blocked the speaker, a Gorran party member, from returning to the capital where the parliament is located.
The KDP has faced another blow on Tuesday when the PUK declared that they hold the view that the referendum cannot be held without reactivating the Kurdish legislature and ending the political deadlock.
The PUK’s declaration came in response to remarks made by KDP’s head of foreign relations, Hoshyar Siwaily, in which he claimed on Tuesday that the majority of politburo members believe that reactivating the parliament is not needed.
Gorran, which is the second-biggest party in Kurdistan in terms of seats in the parliament, along with the Islamic Union, and the Islamic Group (Komal) — all members of the Kurdish coalition government — say they are in favor of the referendum, but it must have a mandate from the parliament.
On the issue of the disputed areas — territories claimed both by Erbil and Baghdad — including Kirkuk, Rozh Shawes, a senior KDP leader, revealed earlier this month that if the people from these areas asked willingly to take part in the independence referendum, the Kurdish government can in no way stand in their way.
Shawes claimed that the Provincial Council of Kirkuk had already called on the KRG to be included in the independence referendum.
Shawes then said that the KRG waited for more than 10 years to implement Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution that concerns the disputed areas without much success, adding that the Kurds would be naive to wait any longer to be implemented.
“[An independence] referendum in itself is the implementation of this article,” he emphasized.
The constitution requires that Iraqis displaced by “Arabization” be compensated and moved back to their original areas, a process that has been resisted by many Arabs who have lived in disputed areas for decades. Kurds see Article 140 as a way to remedy the injustices of “Arabization” policies and strengthen the Kurdistan Region.