The White House refused to endorse full Kurdistan independence and insisted on unified state of Iraq. Photo: Rudaw.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region —The White House has reconfirmed its position on maintaining a unified Iraq in a firm rebuttal to a 100,000-strong petition asking the United States to support Kurdish independence Tuesday.
The clear and, for the Kurds, disappointing message began in July 2014. It was at this time that an American teenager named Jonathan Schwoerer launched a petition for presidential support for Kurdish autonomy – more than a week before Islamic State militants surged northwards into Kurdish territory and the US launched airstrikes against the extremist horde.
“The [US] president is committed to the united, federal, and democratic Iraq that is defined in the Iraqi constitution,” the White House wrote in an official response.
Schwoerer said the response comes as a crushing blow to the 100,000 plus people who signed the petition and hoped the US will shift its Iraq policy.
“The response was disappointing, albeit quite predictable,” said Schwoerer.
“The United States still seeks to support and maintain a unified state of Iraq; an artificial construct carved out of the Middle East by the European powers after the First World War irrespective of different ethnic/religious groups living in the region.”
The Kurds have a population near 40 million and are still arguably the largest ethnic group without a nation.
The President of Kurdistan Regional Government, Masoud Barzani, considered holding a referendum on Kurdish independence before his Peshmerga forces were dragged into the fight against the Islamic State.
“The conflict delayed this process but the process is still valid,” Barzani told PBS in May on his official visit to Washington, “We are not going to abandon it.”
Barzani’s chief of staff Dr Fuad Hussein said Kurdish aspirations for independence were discussed with US officials during the visit.
Draw Mahdi, a Kurdish teacher from Halabja, believes the US is not appreciative of what the Kurds have given the US since the 2003 Iraq War.
“The Kurds welcomed the Americans with open arms more than the Arabs, but the Americans did not appreciate that, instead they credited [insurgent] Shiite groups twice as much,” Mahdi told Rudaw.
The Iraqi Kurds endured genocide in the late 1980s at the hands of the former Iraqi government, notably the notorious Anfal campaign with an estimated death toll of 182,000 people and the Halabja chemical attack killing an estimated 5,000 people.
“All these sufferings is not enough for asking for independence,” said Rawa Barznji, a Kurdish student based in London.
“Kurdish people have dedicated their lives to see the free Kurdistan.”
Sana Karwan, from the Kurdish cultural hub of Suleimani, said “This is not a pleasant response for us Kurds, but, in my opinion, it isn't the right time for independence.”
Karwan believes internal and external factors are not supportive for independence at the moment.
“I want independence as much as everyone else, but although Iraq is falling apart slowly, it is a wiser decision to wait a little bit longer for this dream to come true,” she said
Still, Schwoerer is determined to continue pleas for the Kurdish people.
“The White House's response to the petition regrettably continues the trend of blatant apathy, constant betrayal, and otherwise completely scandalous American policies towards the Kurds.”