ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A shouting match broke out between representatives of Kurdistan Region Islamic parties and Iraqi Shiites when the subject of the planned independence referendum came up during a major conference in Iran.
The verbal fight began when Iraqi Shiite representatives at the ninth annual Islamic TV and radios conference in the Iranian city of Mashhad described the September 25 vote as an “American and Israeli plot,” a Kurdish representative attending the conference told Rudaw.
“Unfortunately, a number of TV managers, Arabic and Islamic media representatives, especially the Iraqi Shiites, described South Kurdistan’s referendum as an American and Israeli plot,” Dr. Hogir Gharib, a member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU, Yekgirtu) media agencies delegation, told Rudaw.
Gharib added “some of the attendants deemed the referendum a means to divide Islamic society and said it is against Islam.”
“Some of them in a very chauvinistic way were talking about the referendum and we responded strongly to them, telling them it is a legal and legitimate right of our nation to determine its fate like any other nation.”
Gharib said they explained to the referendum opponents that the vote does not contradict the basis of Islam. “On the contrary, if we turn to Islam, the Kurds have been oppressed for many years and have been deprived of their rights to have an independent political entity while it has offered lots of services to the history of Islam and Muslims.”
The conference commenced on Sunday in Mashhad. Some 600 Iranian and foreign guests from 230 channels in 36 countries are attending the conference, according to Iranian Financial Tribune.
Delegations from the two major Kurdish Islamic parties, the KIU and Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal), are in attendance.
On June 7, the Kurdistan Region’s President Masoud Barzani, in a meeting with most of the Region’s political parties, set the date for the independence referendum as September 25.
Since the date was declared, many Shiite political figures and parties have publicly shown strong opposition to the “historical” move.
Influential Iraqi politician and Shiite cleric Ammar Hakim, who attended the conference, has previously expressed opposition to the referendum, believing it will create a “political tsunami.”
He has said that if the Kurdistan Region declares independence, only Israel will support it, a line similar to what his colleagues said in the conference.