Firas Sallahadin, a 50-year-old Kurdish man born in Urmia in Iran. “We have a strong wall. We don’t have any problem with Turkey but we are relying on America and Israel. The people who attacked us were Iranian Shia. I haven’t voted yet because I’m working now. I will vote 'Yes' at the last minute.” Photos: @Levi.Life Twitter
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – At Erbil’s citadel in the early afternoon on Monday, the date of the historic referendum for Kurdish independence, people talked about their experiences and opinions regarding the vote, the future of Kurdistan and possible concerns of regional threats.
While there was a sense of calm and quiet around Erbil’s old city, the oldest continuously inhabited site in the world, the people were overwhelmingly excited and in support of a free and independent Kurdistan despite backlash from the regional and international community. Many had already cast their votes and were excited to show us their fingertips inked in blue to prove that they had voted. Even some non-Kurds expressed their support for an independent Kurdistan.
: “My father and my brother were killed by Saddam Hussein because of this flag.”
Himdad Hussein Hassan: “I am from Kurdistan but I live in Holland. I’m very happy today for voting.” Hassan came back to Kurdistan especially to cast his vote.
Amir: “I’m from Kurdistan but live in the UK. I work for an oil company. Everything was good voting today for Kurdistan. All Kurdish people are happy because they want an independent Kurdistan.”
Abdulrahim from Bangladesh, age 40, works selling drinks at the citadel: “The referendum for Kurdistan is very good. I want Kurdistan to be free. Kurdistan is No. 1.” Abdulrahim has lived in Kurdistan for eight years.
Sangar Saleh from Erbil, age 32: “Everyone is happy to vote 'Yes' for a free Kurdistan.” Saleh said he doesn’t feel threatened by rhetoric from Iran and Turkey. “If there are any problems, [President] Barzani will protect the Kurdish people.”
Binyamin from Ismir, Turkey: While he enjoys living in Kurdistan, he expressed no opinion about the Kurdish people voting in the referendum, but he said he didn’t believe there would be any problem from Turkey regarding the safety of Kurds.
A man named Peshmerga, 32-year-old businessman from Erbil: “I was very privileged to be given the chance to be involved and to be a part of this very special day. It was great and I was feeling very good about the whole atmosphere and about the chance we had today.”
Sabah Sabir, Erbil, age 47: “I voted ‘Yes’ for the referendum. We’ve been oppressed and under threat for 100 years now. We will be supportive of our government and state politically and economically.” Sabir had a stroke a few days ago and left the hospital today specifically to cast his vote.
Local voting closed at 7 p.m. with a high reported turnout
. Results will be reported
as they are available.