Iraqi Kurds Set to Vote in Historic Independence Referendum

Banners supporting the referendum hand at a market in Irbil, Iraq.
Russell Boyce / Reuters

America’s most reliable ally in the fight against ISIS wants its own country.

This long-held ambition could take one step closer to becoming reality Monday when Iraqi Kurds are scheduled to vote in a historic independence referendum.

Experts say the result will almost certainly be a resounding “yes” — but what that will actually mean in reality is still unclear.

For the Kurds, the vote presents an opportunity to finally break away from Iraq.

“We have the right to choose our destiny and fulfill our dream,” Dallo Mohammed, a 32-year-old accountant from the town of Khanaqin, told NBC News. “I am a Kurdish citizen, this is how I was born, and this is how I would die.”

For opponents of the vote — a list of countries that includes the U.S. — they say the ballot could provoke destabilization, ethnic violence, and hamper the fight against ISIS.

Who are the Kurds?
They are the world’s largest ethnic group who occupy one geographical area but don’t have their own country.

They are mostly Sunni Muslims and their estimated population of 35 million spans a huge mountainous region across Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Armenia.

They were given hope of their own nation after World War I when the 1920 Treaty of Sevres carved up the Ottoman Empire and eked out a proposed state for Kurdistan.

Disagreements and subsequent treaties meant that never happened.

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SOURCE: NBC News, Alexander Smith