Kurds in diaspora rally in support of the September 25 independence referendum in Cologne, Germany. Photo: Rudaw
COLOGNE, Germany – The people of what is known as the Greater Kurdistan that includes all four parts of the Kurdish homeland divided among four Middle Eastern countries came out in full force to express their support for the independence referendum of Kurdistan Region of Iraq next month.
Many waved the flag of Kurdistan in their hands, with a few holding the Israeli flag and those of the United States and Germany.
A Kurdish bride and groom who are originally from the city of Afrin in Syrian Kurdistan organized their wedding to coincide with the festival.
The couple made their way to the stage as the Kurdish national anthem was playing.
“It was a very happy moment,” the bride said who is now residing in Belgium but decided to have her wedding in Cologne where many Kurds live.
“I shed tears out of happiness for this love and dance,” she continued as she appreciated the fact that they received a warm welcome from the crowd.
Rzgar Khoshnaw, a Kurd who lives in Austria said it felt to him like “the four parts of Kurdistan have become one,” in Cologne.
A spokesperson for the Cologne police said that they were initially expecting a crowd of some five to six thousand, but that their estimates soon proved wrong.
It is estimated that about 20,000 people attended the event, some coming from the rest of Europe.
Dlawar Ajgeiy, representative of the Kurdish government to the European Union, said that he was honored and proud to join the crowd in Germany.
He said this is a message to those who say that it is not the right time to hold the referendum.
The EU and a number of EU members, including Germany, have expressed their concerns over the timing of the vote fearing that it may affect the war against ISIS.
The Kurdish government has said that they are determined to hold the vote as scheduled on September 25, and they reassure the international community that the Kurdish Peshmerga will be fighting the extremist group alongside the US-led Global Coalition.
A woman who had a handwoven flag in her hands and is from the city of Qaladze in the Kurdistan Region said that her children are always told that “you do not have a state of your own”, adding that after the referendum, she and the Kurds will have one.
She said that her sister made the flag for her in 1991 as a gift.
Many interviewed by Rudaw said that no one knows more than the diaspora what it is like to lack an independent state. Some said the Iraqi embassies in their host countries never really helped them when they were in trouble in the way other states do for their citizens.
Some flags of Israel appeared among the crowd. One of the flags read “Thank you for your support.”
Earlier this month Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his country’s support for an independent Kurdistan.
German police said that they removed banners that featured a portrait of the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) Abdullah Ocalan as it is outlawed by the German law.
The crowds however chanted his name few times as they danced and sang about an independent state.
Organizers of the rally read out a message from Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani. The full text is as follows:
In the name of God the most gracious the most merciful,
My lovely sisters and brothers,
It is with great pleasure and hope that a large number of our nation's individuals in the diaspora have gathered here in support of our nation. I thank you. The voice of honorable people like you will motivate and empower your sisters and brothers in Kurdistan.
Our nation today is facing a very delicate phase. On September 25, a referendum will be held through which the Kurdistan nation will determine its fate, stepping towards independence.
The decision of the referendum is being made by the Kurdistan nation. It is the decision of all religious and ethnic components. It is another great achievement in the peaceful history of struggle in Kurdistan.
The referendum is not an objective, but a tool to reach a greater objective: independence. It is not only for the Kurdish people, but all the nations and religions living in Kurdistan.
Our nation in South Kurdistan voluntarily chose to live with the Iraqi state on the condition of partnership. After a hundred years, the Kurdistan nation's share in this partnership consisted of plights, Anfal, chemical bombings, genocide, and ethnic cleansing. All of our efforts with the state of Iraq were a waste. God given human rights, including life and freedom, were taken from us. The nation of Kurdistan does not accept oppression and subordination. Therefore, now, in a democratic and civic way, the people of Kurdistan have two choices: either to stay with a state which always attempts to wipe us away or go ahead for independence.
Despite all the plights Iraqi governments imposed on Kurdistan and after the fall of the Baathist regime, Kurds ramped up efforts to rebuild a new federal and democratic Iraq on the basis of agreements and partnerships, but the attempts were futile. Agreements were reached and then broken. Laws were passed and then not implemented. The constitution was not committed to but was violated, until the point of cutting off the bread of the people of Kurdistan. Still, the culture of denying and subordinating Kurds is prevalent, a culture which does not accept partnership. The nation of Kurdistan has lost hope in staying with Iraq and wants no further repeat of the failed experiences of the past. They will not be forced to be subordinates with a blind eye turned to their rights.
We are seeking a legal and normal thing. The Kurdistan nation wants to, through peace and away from violence, achieve its rights and have the best relations with Baghdad, its neighbors, and the regional countries. The objective of the referendum is to convey the message and the will of the people of Kurdistan to the world – that they want independence and peace. To protect themselves and live in peace and take a step forward, the people of Kurdistan need independence. To avoid conflict and problems with Iraq, the nation of Kurdistan should have its own sovereignty. Therefore, it is better for Kurdistan and Iraq to become good neighbors so that larger problems will not be unleashed between them and both sides will no longer live in uncertainty and chaos.
A nation has standing, opinion, and respect. This opportunity must be granted to the people of Kurdistan to make its decision and express its own point of view. The only remedy to all the pains and the only guarantee to avoid the repetition of catastrophe is to step towards independence.
The revolutions of our nation were for freedom and independence. Over the past century, the Kurdistan nation has offered magnificent sacrifices for survival and to protect itself. You have on all national occasions shown bravery. And for the September 25 referendum, I am calling on you to execute your patriotic, national, and democratic duty and support independence with your full force. I ask for your vote to be for independence in order to end oppression, to let the sun of freedom rise, and for loyalty to the blood of the martyrs, for freedom, and for happiness for future generations.
Long live Kurdistan
Immortality to the martyrs of the path to freedom
A large festival to support the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum, set to be held in less than a month, will be held Tuesday afternoon in the German city of Cologne. Attendees are coming from across Europe in support of the historical vote.
At the festival, a message from President Masoud Barzani will be read expressing gratitude for the Kurdish diaspora’s support for the referendum.
A number of Kurdish friends including writers and German politicians will also deliver speeches at the event that will include Kurdish music.
Rudaw Media Network is sponsoring of the festival and will feature live coverage throughout the day. The festival will open at 3pm Erbil time with the national anthem, Ey Reqib.
A large Kurdistan flag was displayed by attendants of the Kurdistan Independence Festival in Cologne, Germany.
Kurds from across Europe are rallying in Cologne, Germany to show their support for Kurdistan’s independence referendum.
گەورەترین ئاڵا لە گەورەترین فێستیڤاڵی سەربەخۆیی کوردستان- کۆڵن
Posted by Rudaw on Saturday, August 26, 2017