News / Middle East

    Kurdish President: Conditions Favorable for Independence

    Kurdish President Massoud Barzani talks to VOA's Persian service in an exclusive interview.
    Kurdish President Massoud Barzani talks to VOA's Persian service in an exclusive interview.

    As Iraq’s attempts at building a new government failed on Tuesday, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani said he would push for a referendum on independence for Kurdistan.

    Barzani spoke with VOA's Persian service on Tuesday in Irbil, the largest city in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

    The Iraqi army has struggled against offensives by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Islamic militant group that has captured large sections of Iraq’s north and west.

    When the Iraqi army abandoned the city of Kirkuk, Kurdish peshmerga stepped in to defend the city, as well as other northern towns deserted by Iraqi forces.

    The Kurds are exerting control over a larger part of the region, which is behind an increased push for independence.

    “This is a natural right that must be achieved,” Barzani said, adding that he hopes to conduct a referendum within months. “ I believe now the conditions are also favorable for independence. … Once achieved, we will help our brethren in Iraq, within our capabilities, to help Iraq maybe surmount the current crisis.

    “But this does not mean that we will set aside the independence of Kurdistan,” he added. “A referendum in Kurdish areas will determine our ultimate decision. We will implement whatever the people decide.”

    'A new Iraq'

    As far as what the future holds for Iraq, Barzani said, “I doubt if Iraq will go back to what it was. Maybe only God knows what will happen.”

    He said that in 2003, with the downfall of former Iraq President Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime, the Kurds tried to help build “a new Iraq.”

    An Iraq “in which everyone’s rights and duties were well defined … in order to build a democratic, federal, multi-party Iraq,” he said.

    However, that didn’t happen, Barzani said.

    “If a democratic, federal, Iraq would have taken shape, and Kurdish rights had not been violated, no one would have thought about independence,” he said.

    The country today finds itself split along ethnic and secular lines, as witnessed Tuesday in Iraq’s parliament session, which ended quickly after Sunnis and Kurds walked out.

    They complained that the Shi'ites had failed to nominate a prime minister, a condition they had set for revealing their nominees for speaker.

    Respect for Kurds

    Barzani said there are conditions that must be met before the Kurds will help in supporting the current Iraqi government.

    “The Kurds did not bring about the dangerous situation (that threatens) the integrity of Iraq,” he said. “We have not partitioned Iraq, rather, it was others who brought about this catastrophe and broke up Iraq into pieces. And that is why those who created this situation must resolve it as well.“

    Barzani said that for years, Kurds have been treated as “second- and third-class citizens. That is why, from now on, we will not accept such treatment," adding that this is another reason he is pushing for independence for the Kurdish people.

    “So what should we do now? Did we create the current conditions in Iraq?” he asked. “We are not prepared to wait for an uncertain future anymore and continue burning in this fire. We will get out of the fire,” Barzani said, referring to the desire for a referendum.

    Others in the region have nothing to fear from an independent Kurdistan, Barzani added.

    “We have made clear that we pose no threat to Iran, Turkey or any other side,” he said, citing establishing relationships with these countries.

    He said the Kurdish government has helped Iran and Turkey resolve Kurdish issues “in a peaceful, democratic manner. … We believe that Iran and Turkey have also accepted the fact that we are not a threat.”

    Sale of oil

    When the Kurdish Regional Government began selling oil under its control last month, Baghdad weighed in, calling it illegal. The KRG, which has exported more oil since then, maintains it is within their constitutional rights to sell the oil.

    The sale of oil has created another point of contention between Irbil and Baghdad, but Barzani said the sale is an economic necessity.

    Kirkuk oil had been exported to Turkey through a pipeline that passed south of Mosul, he said. Now ISIL controls the pipeline and “prior to that it had been blown up,” he added.

    “If this crude oil is not exported via the pipeline in Kurdistan, it has no other way of being exported,” Barzani said. “The income from export of this oil will go to all whose budgets were not paid by Baghdad - Kirkuk dwellers, all Kurdish people, even the people of Mosul. This oil is not only for the Kurds. It is for all including the Arabs and Turkmens of Kirkuk.”

    He added, “The sale of this oil is our right and the right of all people of this region.”

    The money is necessary because, Barzani said, Baghdad has not funded the KRG for the past six months. And they have not funded the peshmerga, who are considered part of the Iraqi defense forces, for the past 10 years, he added.

    Kurdistan's future

    Barzani’s political plans for the Kurdistan region include guarding and defending  all areas of the Kurdish region, “Kurd, Arab, Turkmen, Assyrian, Chaldean, all will be protected.”

    “We will use our oil revenue to create better and more comfortable living conditions for our citizens. And until the achievement of an Independent Kurdish state, we will cooperate with all to try to find solutions to the current crisis in Iraq,” Barzani said.

    “With all our might, we will help our Shi’ite and Sunni brothers in the fight against terrorism and for the betterment of conditions in Iraq – although this is not an easy task.”

    VOA Persian Service reporter Ali Javanmardi contributed to this report from Irbil, Iraq.

    You May Like

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora