Kurdish independence referendum ends peacefully

80% of eligible voters cast ballots in referendum for independence. 'This is the best day of my life.'

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Gary Willig,

Kurdish women show off ink-stained fingers following vote in independence referendum
Kurdish women show off ink-stained fingers following vote in independence referendum
Reuters

Thousands of residents of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq cast their votes in a historic referendum on Kurdish independence Monday.

Voting began at 8:AM, and 80% of registered voters cast ballots in the semi-autonomous region administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government by the time polls closed. Over 3.9 million people were eligible to vote.

The voting took place peacefully. However, a curfew was imposed in parts of the mixed city of Kirkuk.

The results of the referendum are expected by Thursday, and are expected to be overwhelmingly in favor of independence.

The vote is non-binding, but would give momentum and popular legitimacy to the drive for independence.

Many Kurds expressed their joy at giving voice to their desire for independence.

Abdul Kareem Kakarash, 62, told The Guardian that voting made Monday "the best day of my life.”

Mala Rasul Mamish, a relative of Kakarash, said that “I hope that the west will see this as a historic day, and not just the project of one political party. It is much more than that. So much of our blood has been spilled for being Kurds. The Iraqi government has done to us things that even infidels wouldn’t do.”

Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the KRG, said that Monday was a "historical day," CNN reported.

"It is the beginning of a struggle today in which we hope after a talking process with Iraq, with our neighbors, friends and rivals, to be able to reach our nation's objectives, be able to fulfill the dream that grew with us since childhood," he told reporters. "Today marks the first phase in a long-term process."

Kurdish independence is opposed by many nations in the Middle East who fear a snowball effect.. Iraq, Turkey, and Iran, all of whom have Kurdish populations, have condemned the referendum for Iraq's Kurds. In addition, the US, a traditional ally of the Kurds, had asked that the referendum be postponed.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, however, stated his support for Kurdish independence during a meeting with Republican lawmakers last month. Israel helped the Iraqi Kurdish independence fighters led by Mustafa Barzani during the early years of the state and relations between the Iraqi Kurds and Israel are excellent.








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