Global Politics

Should Kurdistan break off from Iraq? We asked young voters.

Kurds are holding a historic referendum on whether to break away from Iraq. The World’s Richard Hall spoke to Kurdish youths in Erbil about the vote.

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Iraqi Kurds go to the polls on Monday to take part in a historic referendum on their future. Should the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region remain part of Iraq, or become an independent country?

Thousands have died fighting for an independent Kurdistan, and tens of thousands of civilians were killed by Saddam Hussein’s army.

This is a nonbinding vote but Kurdish leaders hope it will be a major step toward nationhood. That would be the realization of a long-held dream for many.

But some are unsure. A generational gap has emerged. Many young people have lost faith in their aging leaders. They want jobs, opportunity and freedom before anything else.

Ahead of the referendum, we spoke to young Kurds in Erbil, their region’s capital city, about how they were voting. This is what they said.

“The will of the people in Kurdistan has always been independent. So many people have died for this.”
— Biza Barzo, 25, humanitarian activist


“They pretend democracy, but they are more like dictators.”
— Renas Khalid, 28, water resource engineer


“We have our own culture, our own language, our own tradition, our own history, so I think we deserve it.”
— Soran Salih, 23, civil engineer


“We heard the stories [about chemical attacks]. So we have to be good for our country and vote for our rights.”
— Aveen Majid Nadr, 22, engineer


“I want to see a very powerful judiciary system, instead of seeing a powerful militia.”
— Sangar Rasul, 33, political researcher


Produced by Alex Newman; edited by Alex Leff. Reporting and images by Richard Hall in Erbil, Iraq.

In Global Politics Conflict & Justice Conflict Seeking Security.

Tagged: Iraq Iraqi Kurdistan Kurdish politics Kurdish referendum.