Abdo Shehu sits in an office in Kurdish-majority Qamishli in northeast Syria, surrounded by copies of the first Western novel available in the city in his own language, the fruit of a new project to translate international works of literature into a language that was effectively banned in Syria until recently.
Video provided by AFP
A Kurdish referendum calling for independence from Iraq won overwhelming approval in a nonbinding vote far more likely to increase tensions with Baghdad than to create a free Kurdish state.
The Kurdish High Electoral and Referendum Commission said Wednesday the referendum won support from 93% of voters in the oil-rich, autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Some communities controlled by the Kurds — but claimed by Iraq’s government — were included in the vote. Turnout was about 72%.
Handren Mohammed, the head of the commission, claimed international observers who witnessed the vote said there were no major issues. The results won’t be finalized until they are approved by the Kurdish courts.
The referendum, which was voted on Monday, drew consternation from the United States, Turkey and Iran and much of the international community. The State Department warned the vote would “greatly complicate” the Kurds’ relationship with Baghdad, adding “the fight against ISIS is not over, and extremist groups are seeking to exploit instability and discord.”
Kurdish independence, however, does have some support in the U.S.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat and the Senate’s minority leader, issued a statement Wednesday saying the Kurds “should have an independent state as soon as possible.” Schumer lauded the Kurds for being “one of our strongest and most supporting partners on the ground in the fight against terrorism.”
Kurdish peshmerga forces have consistently drawn acclaim for their roles in the relentless military assault on the Islamic State. Syrian Kurds have similarly played a key role in a string of military gains against militants in…