>> They've wanted a state for 100 years, and many see today as a celebration. Iraq's Kurds are voting in a referendum on independence, shrugging off threats from Baghdad. Turkey deploying tanks to the border, and Iran banning flights there, they pressed ahead. The President of the Regional Kurdish Government, Masoud Barzani, saying they're ready for talks, but will never go back to the failed partnership with Baghdad.
This referendum has sparked a sense of nationalism that will be difficult to ignore once the ballots are counted. But the referendum is non-binding, and a yes vote is no guarantee. It's simply marks the beginning of what maybe a very difficult, and some fear violent path towards statehood, currently blocked here in Iraq and across the region.
The vote is not only taking place in areas officially run by the Kurdish government, but also in disputed areas captured by forces in the battle against Islamic state. It's in these contested areas that tension is running high. Especially here, in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, and the Iraqi government is calling on foreign countries to stop oil trade with Kurdistan.
A comfortable yes vote is expected. This man saying, I call on the UN to help us. There are around 40 million Kurds who don't have a state to call their own. And that's exactly what Teran and Ankara fear, the spread of separatism to their own Kurdish populations. Kurds were scattered across the region after World War I, when colonial powers Britain and France, carved up the Ottoman Empire, they were left stateless.
Despite the intense international pressure to call this vote off, the referendum offers Kurds a historic opportunity. They've suffered decades of oppression and, for now, aren't afraid of what it might take to achieve independence.