The Right to Self-Determination: No Kurdish Secession from Iraq

The right to self-determination proclaimed last weekend by Massud Barzani does not imply a desire for secession, the Kurdish leader’s nephew said on Monday.

“The Kurdish people have the right to claim self-determination, but we decided to stay within a united Iraq,” said Nechirvan Barzani, former premier of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.

His uncle Massud Barzani who is the regional president said at the opening of a week-long congress of his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) on Saturday that self-determination was “a right.” He said it would be presented at the meeting “to be studied and discussed.”

“The statement by president Barzani has been misunderstood,” his nephew said.

“If we had opted for independence, we would have announced it, but we have not decided a thing. We want to remain in a united and federal Iraq,” he said.

He added that the Kurds were happy with the autonomy granted to them after the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted the now executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“Self-determination is a natural right of the Kurdish people but with what we got in 2003 with the new Iraq, we decided to stay within a federal Iraq,” the former premier said.

Iraq’s Kurdish north, made up of three provinces, exercises control over all policy making, except in national defence and foreign affairs.

The elder Barzani’s weekend comments in the Kurdish capital of Arbil had drawn the ire of the country’s Sunni and Shiite Arab leaders, who argued that it presaged a break-up of Iraq.

“The right of self-determination is something that concerns people living under occupation, but this is not the case for Kurdistan, which has a special status in Iraq,” said Alia Nusayaf, an MP with the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc.

“It makes me wonder if the Kurds asked for federalism (in Iraq’s constitution) to first form a region and then to separate from Iraq,” he said.

ARBIL, Iraq – AFP  December 13, 2010

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