WASHINGTON — Almost 1,000 Kurds and supporters of their fight for self-determination rallied here Sept. 17 to support the Sept. 25 referendum to declare independence for the Kurdish region in Iraq. Similar rallies took place this weekend in London, New York, Atlanta, Beirut and elsewhere.
Washington, and all the capitalist regimes in the Middle East except Israel, have been pressuring the Kurdistan Regional Government to cancel the referendum. Tehran-backed Shiite militias have carried out attacks on independence supporters in so-called disputed areas where local governments have scheduled to join in the vote.
“I came to show our support for the referendum and to show our pride in being Kurdish. We are not Iraqi, Iranian, Turkish or Syrian. We are Kurdish,” Helen Osman, a 21-year-old college student born in Nashville, Tennessee, told the Militant. Some 30 million Kurds — the largest nationality worldwide without its own homeland — are spread across the four countries.
“There are many thousands of others like me, who lost their fathers, husbands and brothers,” said Beyaz Mohamad, referring to assaults carried out by the Saddam Hussein dictatorship in Iraq between 1986 and 1991. “We will not stop our fight for a homeland.” Mohamad left Kurdistan in 1988. She lived in the Diyarbakir refugee camp in Turkey before coming to the U.S.
“If we don’t declare independence now, no one will support us after Daesh [Islamic State] has been defeated and the U.S. doesn’t need us anymore,” said Hassan Godany, who came to the action from St. Louis.
“South Kurdistan will become a beacon for Kurds everywhere,” protest organizer Zana Hussain told the Militant at the 1,000-strong London rally, referring to an independent Kurdish state in Iraq.
The mood of the Washington rally was celebratory and confident with colorful banners, music and dancing until it closed.