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Kurdistan's Independence Referendum: The Beginning of Further Instability in the Region?

Chatham House, London


Dr Nazand Begikhani, Senior Research Fellow, University of Bristol

Dr Renad Mansour, Academy Associate, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House
Dr Mohammed Shareef, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations of the Middle East, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter

Chair: Dr Nussaibah Younis, Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House


On 25 September, Iraqi Kurdistan will hold an independence referendum. It is likely that, as was the case in the 2005 vote, the overwhelming majority of Iraqi Kurds will vote in favour of independence and so the nature of the response from the Kurdistan Region Government (KRG), the Iraqi central government and regional and international leadership will be pivotal to the political stability both within Iraq and the wider region.

Our panellists will discuss the impact that the outcome of the referendum will have on the Kurdish population, Iraq and the wider Middle East. Could Kurdish independence be the linchpin to ensure a democratic and stable Kurdistan and therefore a more secure Iraq? Or might a call for Kurdish independence shake Iraq’s territorial integrity and further agitate a state attempting to rebuild itself at a time when it is emerging from years of brutal conflict. Will Iraqi Kurdish leaders’ focus on securing legitimacy in the region detract from the creation of a stronger Iraqi state? And what are the political and security dynamics that Western powers will consider when deciding their reaction to any call for Kurdish independence?