By Rudaw 5 hours ago
Muqtada al-Sadr and President Masoud Barzani differ on the Kurdistan referendum on independence but are united in their opposition to Maliki making a return to Iraqi politics and governance. Photo: Sadr Movement media office
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on President Masoud Barzani to “postpone” and eventually “cancel” the planned Kurdistan referendum on independence scheduled for September 25.
“Iraq is one and is for all,” Sadr said in a written statement on Tuesday in response to a letter sent to his office by a Faili Kurd who complained about the rise of public rhetoric against Kurds, particularly Faili Kurds who are Shiite Muslims residing mainly in the south and center of Iraq.
Sadr said that his movement opposes discrimination between Iraqis based on their religion or ethnicity, adding that those who do discriminate want to get more votes in elections.
Sabah Zangana, a Faili media professional and former candidate in Iraq’s 2013 provincial elections, wrote to Sadr asking the cleric to clarify his position with regard to calls to alienate Kurds in Iraqi provinces, in particular Faili Kurds who largely live in Baghdad and other central and southern provinces.
Zangana praised Sadr for his national views on a range of issues and his record against sectarianism.
Some Faili Kurds have expressed their concerns that they may become victims of a new dispute between Erbil and Baghdad over the referendum. Some in Baghdad and southern Iraq reported receiving threatening letters and phone calls since the Kurdistan Region announced it will hold the historic vote.
In Baghdad, the Failis have even considered forming their own militia to protect their community.
Ali Akbar, a Faili tribal chief, told Rudaw last week that taking up arms is on the table.
“Of course we are threatened because of the referendum,” Akbar said. “Therefore, we need to come up with a way to defend ourselves and reach an agreement among ourselves to form a military force. We have already declared that the force we are going to form will be secret and we will not reveal the numbers of the force or the commander.”
Last month, Saad Mutalibi, a member of the Baghdad Provincial Council from the State of Law Coalition warned Kurds in Baghdad that if the Kurdistan Region was determined to hold a referendum to build a state of their own, they would strip them of Iraqi citizenship and evict them from the city.
Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, head of the State of Law Coalition, is said to have reassured some Faili Kurds who visited him about this issue, saying that Failis are Iraqis and they are protected.
While Sadr attempted to reassure Faili Kurds about their place in Iraqi society, he also called on Kurdistan to cancel the referendum.
“Hereby I call on my brother Masoud Barzani to postpone the secession referendum, especially as we are on the brink of the liberation of Mosul.”
He said that the postponement would be “the first step to canceling it in the future.”
President Barzani told Iraq’s parliament speaker in late June that “the Kurdish referendum is a decision there will be no turning back from.”
Sadr’s Movement has 34 seats in the Iraqi parliament. It is a member of the Shiite National Alliance but has suspended its membership due to political differences with other members of the alliance, in particular with Maliki’s State of Law Coalition. Maliki is a staunch opponent of the Sadr Movement.
Though they disagree on the referendum, Sadr and President Barzani are united in their opposition to Maliki making a return to Iraqi politics and governance.