Kurdish troops pressure families to take part in vote or leave: Observatory

A polling station during a vote on Kurdistan’s independence from Iraq.

Kirkuk ( Kurdish security services have pressured displaced families living in Kirkuk to take part in Kurdistan’s independence referendum, the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Asayish urged the anti-referendum families to leave the province,” the observatory said on behalf of the families. “The families were forced by Asayish to either take part in the referendum or leave Kirkuk.”

“More than 250 families left Kirkuk over the past two days as they refused to take part in the referendum as well as a protest to support the governor, Najmaddin Karim, who was dismissed by Iraqi parliament on September 14,” IOHR added.

The observatory said it contacted five families who fled toward Al-Azeem town in Diyala.

One family composed of seven persons said that Asayish troops asked on Friday to check their IDs and whether they were going to take part in the referendum or not. As the family said they cannot take part as they were not from the province, the troops asked them to leave.

Another family said troops gave them either options; to take part in the vote or leave the province. Thus, they had to leave.

Kurdistan expects at least 900,000 voters as ballots open even at areas where sovereignty is disputed with Baghdad, including oil-rich Kirkuk. The poll, which started earlier on the day as scheduled, is rejected by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and regional powers Turkey and Iran.

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