Barzani Says Kurds Willing To Pay Any Price for Freedom

Barzani Says Kurds Willing To Pay Any Price for Freedom

Masoud Barzani said on Friday (September 22) that Kurds were ready "to pay any price for freedom", thereby rejecting international pressure to call off the referendum on independence planned for Monday (Sept. 25) in northern Iraq.

Addressing a rally in support of the vote in Erbil, Barzani reacted to a United Nations Security Council statement that expressed on Wednesday (September 20) concern over the potential destabilizing impact of the vote on Iraq.

Barzani, president of the Kurdish region since 2005, has resisted calls by the United Nations, the United States and Britain to delay the referendum.

Neighboring Turkey is holding army exercises on the Iraqi border to underline its concerns that the referendum could fuel separatism among its own Kurds.

Many Kurds see the vote, though non-binding, as a historic opportunity to achieve self-determination a century after Britain and France divided the Middle East under the Sykes-Picot agreement. That arrangement left 30 million Kurds scattered over Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

Turkey, the United States and other Western powers have advised Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region to cancel the vote, worrying that tensions between Baghdad and Erbil would distract from the war on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Kurds are set to hold the referendum on September 25 but Baghdad opposes it, with lawmakers voting to reject it. Iraq's neighbors, Turkey, Iran and Syria, also oppose the referendum, fearing it could fan separatism among their own ethnic Kurdish populations.