Iraqi Kurdistan in historic independence vote despite foreign powers disagreement

People are voting in a landmark referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq – a move which has been criticised by foreign powers.

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.

Kurdistan expects at least 900.000 voters as ballots open even at areas where sovereignty is disputed with Baghdad, including oil-rich Kirkuk.

Besides Baghdad, the poll has been met with disapproval from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and regional powers Iran and Turkey which reportedly closed their airspaces and borders with the region.

Initial results are expected to be announced 24 hours after the vote.

Baghdad on Sunday urged the world countries not to purchase oil from Kurdistan Region in response to the referendum hours after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi vowed to take “necessary measures” to protect the unity of Iraq.

Tehran earlier warned the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) that holding the referendum and breaking from Iraq would result in the border being closed and the annulling of all the agreements with the region.

Meanwhile, Turkey has been holding massive military drills with around 100 military vehicles, including tanks and howitzers, exercising on the Iraqi border since Monday.

Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained a permanent nation state.

In Iraq, where they make up an estimated 15% to 20% of the population of 37 million, Kurds faced decades of repression before acquiring autonomy in 1991.


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