Small Wars Journal

Iran’s Leaders Opposed Kurdish Independence Vote in Iraq. Iran’s Kurds Celebrated on The Streets.

Iran’s Leaders Opposed Kurdish Independence Vote in Iraq. Iran’s Kurds Celebrated on The Streets. By Eric Cunningham – Washington Post

Nearly every Middle East government was opposed to Monday's vote for independence in the Kurdish region of Iraq. But not so just across the border in the cities and towns of western Iran.

There, thousands of Iranian Kurds, jubilant for their Iraqi kin, staged demonstrations in support of the vote. (Iran is home to roughly 8 million Kurds. The rest of the region's Kurdish population is spread across Iraq, Syria and Turkey.)

Crowds waving glowing cellphone screens marched in main squares in places including Baneh, Sanandaj and Mahabad, the capital of a short-lived republic declared by Kurds in 1946. Images posted on social media showed demonstrators singing the Kurdish national anthem, chanting for “freedom!” and in some cases marching past Iranian security forces. No clashes were reported.

The protests, however, defied the government in Tehran that has condemned the referendum and warned of regional chaos. Iran is a key ally of the government in Baghdad and has urged the international community to maintain Iraq's territorial integrity.

But Tehran is also concerned about unrest within its own borders, where Kurds have long complained of discrimination and widespread rights abuses…

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