Iraqi Kurdistan is in the spotlight and the international media are reporting on the upcoming independence referendum, far and wide. But a focus on international opposition, means that important context is often missing.
While recent front pages around the world have been reserved for earthquakes and hurricanes, the referendum on independence in Iraqi Kurdistan has never been too far behind. Mostly this has been due to widespread international concern about what the referendum will mean, and what kind of problems it could cause, either in the lead up to the event, or afterwards.
Perhaps the most interesting thing for Iraqis about international coverage of the independence referendum, scheduled for Sept. 25, is the sympathy with which the whole world appears to view the Kurdish people of Iraq.
Most reports freely acknowledge that the Kurdish are the world’s largest ethnic minority without their own state. Almost every writer details the trials and tribulations that Iraq’s Kurds have gone through and, in particular, what they suffered under former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. The heinous chemical weapons attack on the city of Halabja, in which thousands died, is not forgotten.
But after expressing understanding, most Western media go on to talk about international disapprobation of the referendum. The list of friends and enemies who oppose this Kurdish example of direct democracy grows longer by the day.
European media have found it particularly notable that this time, the US – generally a staunch ally of Iraqi Kurdistan – couldn’t do the back room deals their envoys usually do, to postpone the referendum. Many analysts noted that the statement the US eventually issued on the topic was unusually harsh.