ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A referendum is a tool to achieve Kurdistan’s natural right of independence, but holding the vote amid numerous crises is a “dangerous step,” Gorran and Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) parties have said in a joint statement.
“The right of self-determination and the establishment of an independent state for Kurdistan is a natural right of Kurdistan’s nation,” and a referendum “is one of the tools to achieve this national objective,” read the statement published on Gorran’s Sbeiy media on Wednesday.
“However, holding a referendum under the current complex circumstances marked by numerous crises and an uncertain future doesn’t serve this strategy. Rather, it is a dangerous step for now and the future of our nation.”
Gorran and Komal have refused to participate in the High Referendum Council that called for the September 25 vote. They maintained that such a vote must have a parliamentary mandate and the party-led High Referendum Council was not the correct body to be making these decisions.
They both, however, boycotted a September 15 parliamentary session that approved holding the referendum, arguing that parliamentary protocol was broken in convening the legislature.
In their statement on Wednesday, they outlined several reasons why they believe the referendum should not be held at this time.
Their first concern is that holding the vote in Kirkuk and other disputed areas, known as Kurdistani, will “cause war and tension” and may lead to losing control of these areas, “for which we have sacrificed thousands of lives.”
They note, however, that not holding the vote in these territories would mean “relinquishing nearly half of the territory of south Kurdistan.”
Their second concern is the possibility of war between Peshmerga and Iraqi forces and armed groups, resulting in insecurity.
Gorran and Komal also expressed concern that the referendum will cause division in the Kurdistan nation. “Healing this wound will take a long time and its implications are perilous.”
Referring to an initiative from the US, UN, and European nations urging the Kurdistan Region to postpone the referendum and focus on dialogue with Baghdad, the two parties recommended that this should be welcomed “in light of our national and religious responsibilities.”
“These countries have shown readiness to mediate between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad and try to resolve the problems between the regional and Iraqi governments,” the statement read.
Once there is unity within Kurdistan, better inter-party relations, legal institutions are restored, and people’s living conditions are improved, only then should preparations be made for a referendum “that will allow it to be followed by independence and reduce the possibility of danger,” the statement concluded.
The Kurdish leadership has resisted calls to postpone the vote, insisting they will only do so if a viable alternative is offered that addresses Kurdistan's goal of independence.