Iraqi Kurdistan holds independence vote today

The leadership of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq has decided to go ahead with its independence vote today as per the original plan despite the threats from the country’s Prime Minister and direction of the Supreme Court to halt the referendum.

On 18 September, the Supreme Court of Iraq ordered the Kurdistan Regional Government to halt its proposed independence referendum scheduled for 25 September till further orders.

At the time of writing this report, voters are heading to the polling stations. Along with Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)-run Iraqi Kurdistan semi-autonomous region, Kurds-dominated Kirkuk region, which is outside the jurisdiction of KRG, is also participating in the referendum, despite protests from Baghdad.

A Yes result is widely expected.

In an address on Sunday, president of the Kurdish Regional Government Masoud Barzani urged millions of Kurds to cast their ballot in the independence referendum.

Shortly after Barzani’s speech, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made a separate address saying, “This is an unconstitutional decision against the social fabric of our citizens. We will not recognise the referendum, nor its results.” He has warned he will take “necessary measures to preserve the unity of the country”.

Massoud Barzani while speaking to the BBC stated that independence is the only way to guarantee the safety of his people.

Late Sunday night, Baghdad ordered the Kurdish regional government to hand over all border crossings and airports to federal government control.

The UN and the western countries have expressed concern that the independence vote could destabilize the region and distract from the fight against the Islamic State.

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