Kurdish referendum inspires Iraqi Christians to fight for independent state in Nineveh Plains

After the majority of Kurds in Iraq voted last week in favor of being independent from the central government, Christians have become inspired to fight for their own independent space in the Nineveh Plains, according to Minority Humanitarian Foundation president Mark Arabo.

(REUTERS / Ako Rasheed)A Peshmarga woman offers sweets at a polling station during Kurds independence referendum in Kirkuk, Iraq. September 25, 2017.

Speaking to Fox News in an interview, Arabo said Christians are hoping that if Kurdistan succeeds in seeking its independence from Baghdad, they can also be better protected by having their own independent space in the Nineveh Plains. However, they understand that they could be caught in the middle of a crossfire if their ambition for autonomy comes to pass.

"Christians understand the sentiment of self-determination and liberty that drives every man or woman," Arabo told Fox. "One thing that gives Christians hope is that if Kurdistan is successful in their effort to attain sovereignty, perhaps Christians can successfully carve out a space in the Nineveh Plains that would grant them far greater protection than is currently had."

The atrocities of the Islamic State starting 2014 caused many of Iraq's Christians to flee, leaving only around 200,000 of them from more than 1.5 million before the 2003 invasion. The incidents in the last few years have caused them to no longer want to depend on either the Kurdish Regional Government or the central government in Baghdad for protection, thus their call for an independent state similar to the Vatican.

During a conference in Erbil on Oct. 1, Christians in the Kurdistan Region asked the international community to step in and facilitate a dialogue between KRG and Baghdad concerning their political issues. Wahida Yaqo, a Christian member of the Kurdistan Regional Parliament, urged the U.N. and the European Union to consider the Kurds' vote in favor of independence and praised the community and Peshmerga fighters for protecting Christians against ISIS, Kurdistan 24 reported.

The Head of the Church of the Kurdistan Region also issued a statement that highlighted the persecution of people in the area at the hands of the central government, saying Christians and other minorities have suffered greatly because of the sectarian and political tensions. The statement also warned of another mass Christian exodus and eventually extinction from their homeland if the said conflicts go on.