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Kurdish Referendum for Independence

This collection contains ephemera related to the Referendum for Independence held in the Kurdish region of Iraq on 25 September 2017. Kashkul staff members collected material in Sulaimani and Erbil/Hawler during August and September 2017.  The collection includes photographs, posters, and political cartoons. In addtion, thirty-five relevant websites were archived between late August and early October.

Explore: the collection in IDEP and 35 archived web sites 


The Kurdish Regional Government was established after a popular Kurdish uprising against Saddam Hussein in 1991, who conducted campaigns against the Kurds, including the chemical attack at Halabja on March 16, 1998 that killed thousands and the Anfal Campaign from 1986 to 1989 that killed approximately 182,000 Kurds. After the 2003 United States invasion of Iraq, the new Iraqi state officially recognized the Kurdish Regional Government. 

on June 7, 2017, via twitter, the President of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani called for the Referendum on Independence.

Although independence had been a dream for Kurdish people since the national boundaries of the Middle East were drawn by England and France after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, many recognized that they could not realize it without the support of the KRG’s neighbors and the international community. The KRG’s neighbors—Baghdad, Turkey, and Iran—voiced their opposition to the referendum and warned of consequences should it proceed. The United States did not support it, maintaining their support for a united Iraq. The only international support came from Israel. 

Voting took place in the three provinces of the KRG and the disputed territories in the provinces of Nineveh, Kirkuk and Diyala, areas with mixed ethnicities and religions, including Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Christians. 

The Referendum passed with a strong majority. Many of those who opposed the referendum stayed home rather than vote to oppose Kurdish independence. Some Arab areas in the disputed territories also voted for it, hoping to join a Kurdish state. 

The collection shows the enthusiasm for the Referendum, the dream of Kurdish people in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran for the past hundred years. The vote showed the Kurds’ continued devotion to this dream as well as the political realities that continue to prevent its realization. 

--Elizabeth Campbell, Kashkul