September 25, The Iran Project – Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region is holding an independence referendum in the face of strong objections from the central government in Baghdad and in defiance of urgent calls from the international community to scrap the vote.
A total of 12,072 polling stations have opened at 8:00 local time (0500 GMT) Monday where more than 5.3 million are eligible to vote. Polls will remain open for 12 hours.
As the voting got underway in Kurdish-populated regions, Iraqis elsewhere took to the streets in protest, saying the referendum aimed to divide their country.
Hundreds of people protested in Al Khalis city of Diyala province, urging the central government to immediately intervene to stop the referendum.
According to Iraq’s al-Sumaria news website, two towns in Diyala have not participated in the referendum.
Several Iranian leaders also have voiced their opposition to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence.
President Hassan Rouhani has reaffirmed Tehran’s opposition to any move running against the Iraqi territorial integrity and national unity, saying that all should know that their legitimacy lies within Iraq’s Constitution.
In a telephone conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Heydar al-Abadi late on Sunday, he added that Iran will fully support Iraqi central government.
Meanwhile, Rouhani and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, discussed the latest developments surrounding a highly controversial planned referendum on the independence of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq.
In a telephone conversation on Sunday, the Iranian and Turkish presidents expressed concern about the regional chaos that the independence vote would cause, Erdogan’s office said in a statement.
In another development, The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday that Iran insistently supports Iraq’s territorial integrity, national sovereignty and democratic developments of the country.
“Any move damaging stability, security and territorial integrity of Iraq is wrong and inappropriate,” Bahram Qasemi said in his weekly press conference on Monday.
“Iran has always respected the people in the region, particularly the Kurdish people, and it has always tried to help and support them,” Qasemi added.