Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum, 2016

Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum

Location of Iraqi Kurdistan in Iraq

     Official borders of the Region of Iraqi Kurdistan      Territory captured by Iraqi Kurdistan during June 2014      Other territory claimed by Iraqi Kurdistan

     Rest of Iraq
Location Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq
Date 2016 or 2017[1]

An independence referendum for Iraqi Kurdistan was planned to be held in 2014 amidst controversy and dispute between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government of Iraq.[2] Longstanding calls for Kurdish independence[3] gained impetus following the Northern Iraq offensive by ISIL in which Baghdad-controlled forces abandoned some areas, which were then taken by the Peshmerga and controlled de facto by the Kurds.

On 3 February 2016, reported that Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani told KRG legislators that the referendum would be held sometime before the 2016 American presidential election in early November.[4] On 23 March, Barzani stated, in an interview with Al-Monitor media website, that the referendum will take place before October 2016.[1] However in late October, Iraqi Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechervan Barzani confirmed that the referendum would not be held until after Mosul had been liberated.[5]


The Kurdistan Regional Government had criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, claiming that his rule was divisive.[6] After the central government began withholding funding to the Kurdistan Regional Government in January 2014, the KRG attempted to export oil via the northern pipeline into Turkey in May,[7][8] but the Iraqi government lobbied international governments to block the export and sale of this oil.[9]

As jihadis affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took control of much of western and northern Iraq in June 2014, the Iraqi military in those areas largely disintegrated and abandoned their positions.[8] The Peshmerga stepped into this vacuum, taking control of the city of Kirkuk[8] and other northern areas long claimed by the Kurdistan Regional Government but until then outside its formal control.

Nouri al-Maliki's government was widely blamed for the failure of the security forces and for Sunni Arab dissatisfaction with the central government, and international and domestic calls for a new prime minister became widespread.[6][10] On 1 July, Kurdish president Masoud Barzani announced his intention to call a referendum on independence sometime in 2014 on the grounds that the country had been "effectively partitioned" already.[2]

In September, 2014, after Maliki was replaced, Kurdish leaders agreed to postpone the referendum while they focus on the fight against ISIL.[11]

In August 2016 Prime Minister of Iraq Haider Al-Abadi said that he sees self-determination as an "undisputed right".[12]

See also


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