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Iraq's Assyrians Oppose Planned Kurdish Independence Referendum
By Lorraine Caballero
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Christians residing in the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul are reportedly wary of the planned independence referendum scheduled by the Kurdish Regional Government for Sept. 25, as they think the move will not benefit their community in the future. In an interview with the Anadolu Agency on Aug. 22, Assyrian Democratic Movement deputy secretary-general Imad Yohanna said the majority of Iraqi Christians oppose the upcoming independence referendum. The MP pointed out that these people were forced to flee the atrocities of the Islamic State in their hometowns and the non-binding referendum will only exploit the persecuted community. "Most of Iraq's Christian community opposes a regional referendum," Yohanna explained to the Anadolu Agency on Tuesday. "We reject this referendum; we don't view it as beneficial to our people's future." He then added: "Holding a referendum in areas to which they [i.e., Christians] have yet to return would be an injustice and an exploitation of internally displaced people." Meanwhile, Baghdad also rejected the referendum, which will see KRG residents voting on whether they should declare independence from Iraq or not. For the Iraqi government, the poll would only interfere with the ongoing offensive against ISIS. On Aug. 23, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he had already detailed their concerns about the planned referendum to KRG leader Massoud Barzani and said they expect Erbil to cancel the vote. Turkey is joined by Iran and Syria in opposing the upcoming poll because they fear that their local Kurdish populations could also come up with the same idea, Reuters reported. Cavusoglu told reporters later that he met with Barzani and talked about the independence referendum. While the Turkish government did not demand anything over the issue, the minister urged Baghdad and Erbil to conduct a dialogue regarding the poll. The U.S. and other Western countries also share the same opposition to the independence referendum. They fear that it could spark fresh conflict with Iraq or other nearby countries.

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