Friday, September 22, 2017

Referendum 2017: Iraqi Kurdistan Map

Two of the world's autonomous regions are about to vote in controversial independence referendums. Iraqi Kurdistan decides on independence from Iraq this Monday, and on October 1 Catalonia plans to vote on leaving Spain. PolGeoNow will be covering these events with a series of articles, but in the meantime we couldn't wait to share our new Iraqi Kurdistan map with you!

Map of Iraq and Kurdistan's place within it, published in advance of the 2017 Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum. Includes disputed territories and territorial control as of July 30, 2017. Colorblind accessible.
Graphic by Evan Centanni and Djordje Djukic, incorporating base map by Koen Adams of All rights reserved.

Iraqi Kurdistan Independence Referendum

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan for short) is just part of the traditional homeland of the Kurds, the Middle East's fourth-largest ethnic group after Arabs, Persians, and Turks.

Many Kurds also live in Turkey, Syria, and Iran. But Iraqi Kurdistan is where they have the most legal rights, governing themselves in what's internationally recognized as an autonomous region within Iraq.

But all's not well in Kurdistan-Iraq relations. Iraqi Kurds suffered through horrific violence and persecution in the 1980s and 90s, and now the region's top politician has staked his reputation on separating Kurdistan from Iraq permanently.

Despite angry objections from Iraq's federal government in Baghdad, as well as from neighboring countries Iran, Turkey, and Syria, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is going through with an independence vote this Monday, September 25. A "yes" vote in the referendum - which is almost guaranteed - doesn't mean Kurdistan will immediately declare independence. But it will be seen as a serious step toward the region separating itself from Iraq once and for all.

Making matters more tense, the referendum is happening even in areas that Iraq's federal government doesn't consider part of the autonomous region at all -  Kurdistan has claimed these territories for years, and its military took over some of them after being cut off from the rest of Iraq by the so-called "Islamic State" (ISIS/ISIL) in 2014. But there's not much Baghdad can do about it. The past three years have proven Kurdistan's military to more effective than Iraq's own, and after being left to fend for itself so long, the region is practically independent already.

Stay tuned to PolGeoNow for continuing coverage of both the Kurdistan and Catalonia referendums, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter for more updates as events unfold!