Nineveh Plains should be excluded from Kurdish referendum, says Christian group

The Nineveh Plains should not be included in the Kurdistan independence referendum in September as the Christian-majority areas should be spared from conflicts, said a Christian group made up of Chaldean fighters.

(REUTERS / Azad Lashkari)A Kurdish Peshmerga soldier holds a Kurdistan flag during a deployment in the area near the northern Iraqi border with Syria, which lies in an area disputed by Baghdad and the Kurdish region of Ninawa province, August 6, 2012.

On Aug. 3, the Babylon Movement issued a statement conveying respect for the Kurdistan Region's decision to hold an independence referendum on Sept. 25. However, the Christian group said the Christians living in the Nineveh Plains should not be intimidated into joining it, Rudaw relayed.

"We respect the will of the Kurdish nation in their decision to exercise their self-determination right as they are believed to be holding referendum on September 25, but this should not be imposed on the Christians and residents of the Nineveh Plains through signature collection under intimidation," the Babylon Movement said. "These areas must be distanced from rivalries."

The Babylon Movement, which fought side-by-side with Shiite forces against the Islamic State, vowed to oppose the efforts to include the Nineveh Plains in the Kurdish independence referendum. The Christian group also accused some Christian MPs and other influential figures of pursuing their personal and political agendas by switching sides in just a few days' time and ignoring the sentiments of the Nineveh Plains residents.

Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani announced on June 7 the chosen date for the referendum, which hopes to settle issues over disputed territories including Kirkuk and Sinjar. While many states agreed that the region has the right to seek a referendum and independence, The Jerusalem Post pointed out that it must be done in agreement with Baghdad and within the boundaries provided for in the Iraqi constitution.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed the Post's point and told Rudaw that the Kurds must remain inside the "framework of existing international legal norms." The U.S., a close ally of KRG, wants the region to push back the referendum until the Iraqi parliamentary elections are finished.

Baghdad, on the other hand, is against both the referendum and the idea of Kurdish independence.

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