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>> Iraq's Kurds are considering their next move when it comes to a vote on independence, an issue that's been divisive for some 100 years. Turkey says it could lead to a civil war. The US says it's the wrong time. And Iraq's Prime Minister is rejecting the plan as unconstitutional.
I'm Reuters Emily Wither in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region where the government is brushing aside those international warnings, .and pressing ahead with its referendum on statehood next month. The Kurds want their own state, and have done since at least the end of World War I.
Colonial powers divided up the Middle East and left Kurdish-populated territory split between modern-day Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Those countries all have sizable Kurdish communities and their governments all oppose an independent Kurdistan. There's talk Iraq's Kurds may postpone the vote in return for financial and political concessions from the central government in Baghdad, but they insist on the right to still hold the vote just at a later date.
Speaking to people in Erbil, the feeling is they're done with waiting.>> We are going to hold the referendum. For 100 years, we've been struggling for this day to come.>> After the Sykes–Picot agreement, the whole area was divided into four or five areas. Every area had pressure from governments to stop them from not only using their language and culture, but also to prevent them from having their own independent thinking.
>> The US and other Western nations fear the votes could ignite a fresh conflict with Baghdad possibly dragging in neighboring countries. Cities like oil rich Karkuk, a disputed territory, and will be included in the referendum.
Promises from Baghdad of cash and pledges to settle land disputes may not be enough to convince the Kurds, now is not a good time.