SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region of Iraq - Standing in front of representatives of different governments, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region on Monday pleaded for the Kurdish right of self determination.
The Kurdish people “have legitimate claims towards self-determination. These are rights that have been acknowledged by our friends and allies, who at the same time tell us that political imperatives impede their help in delivering a historical justice,” Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said while delivering his keynote speech at the World Governments Summit in Dubai.
The Kurds, scattered across the globe are believed to be one of the largest ethnic groups without a state of their own.
The autonomous Kurdistan Region in north Iraq was established following an international no fly zone adopted following the Gulf war in 1991, however the dream of a Kurdish state has been one fought for for decades.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has been seen by many western countries as a strong ally, especially in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS) following the group’s control of swathes of Iraqi land in 2014.
“We stood by our allies during the plague of ISIS. It was the right thing to do, and had we not done so, the region would now be a very different place, plagued by global terrorists who had consolidated a foothold in the heartland of the Middle East, sowing chaos among us at will,” Barzani said, referring to the Kurdish people’s support in the fight against terrorism.
In 2017, people across the Kurdistan Region arrived at the polling stations to participate in the Kurdistan Independence Referendum. Over 92 percent of voters across the Region voted for independence, but the results of the election were invalidated by Baghdad, claiming it was an attempt at separatism, and at a time where the Region thought years of alliance with the west would pay off, no western country expressed support for Kurdish independence.
“I have said in the past, here and in other capitals, Kurdistan has never been a threat to anyone in the region. We are a factor of peace and stability, and we want regional conduct to be based on mutual respect and interests,” Barzani said.
The Kurdistan Region, since its establishment, has served as home for different religious and ethnic groups. Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, and other groups have all lived in the Kurdistan Region.
The Region has also embraced thousands of displaced people, fleeing the terror of ISIS and the Syrian civil war, from Syria and the rest of Iraq.
Another part of Barzani’s speech focused on the constant threat of climate change, calling on leaders across the globe to come together and work towards a mutual goal.
“I can say with satisfaction that on one of the biggest challenges of all, climate change, there is a collective will to do things differently,” he said. “Dubai and Erbil are both at the epicenter of a warming planet and we are fully aware of the risks of ignoring a catastrophic reality.”
“We must have the courage, and frankly the sense to make such tough decisions. If we fail to do so, our part of the world will become a furnace in our lifetime. Large tracts of land will be uninhabitable, water sources will dry up and food security will prove an enormous challenge,” Barzani added.