Kirkuk at question in Kurdish independence vote

Thousands rallied in Erbil, capital of Iraq's Kurdistan Region, on Sept. 13 in support of the upcoming historic referendum on independence. But one day earlier, Iraq's parliament passed a resolution rejecting the referendum, and demanding that Kurdish authorities "cancel" it. Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani retorted in kind: "I say clearly to the Iraqi parliament to reconsider your decision because the will of the people of Kurdistan will not be broken by you." A particular sticking point is the inclusion of Kirkuk in the vote scheduled for Sept. 25—not within the Kurdistan Regional Government's formal borders, but under its de facto control since Kurdish forces occupied the city with the collapse of the Iraqi army during the ISIS offensive of June 2014. The Iraqi parliament resolution made special note that the referendum is proceeding within "disputed territories, including Kirkuk."

Kirkuk's provincial council voted Aug. 29 for the oil-rich province to take part in the independence referendum. However, the vote was boycotted by the council's Turkmen and Arab members. In the vote, 22 of the 24 present councillors of the 41-member Kirkuk council voted in favor of holding the referendum. The provincial council consists of 26 Kurds, nine Turkmen and six Arabs. (Rudaw, Rudaw, Sept. 13; Jurist, Sept. 12; Al Jazeera, Aug. 29)

Iraqi parliament votes to remove Kirkuk governor

The Iraqi parliament voted Sept. 14 to sack the governor of Kirkuk, amid rising tension ahead of a planned referendum on Kurdish independence. Gov. Najm al-Din Karim promised to ignore the vote and stay in office, telling Reuters: "The referendum will go on as planned." His office said only the provincial council could remove the governor, who is a member of the political bureau of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). (BBC News)

Iraq top court suspends Kurdish referendum

Iraq's Federal Supreme Court on Sept. 18 temporarily suspended the Kurdistan Regional Government's independence referendum vote that is set to take place Sept. 25. Despite the order, it is unclear whether the KRG will pursue the referendum. (Jurist)