Somaliland: Scotland’s Independence Run Inspires


By Osamah Golpy

Somalilandsun – On September 18, 2014, a referendum on whether Scotland should be independent from the United Kingdom takes place. If voters approve the referendum, Scotland will be declared a sovereign country on March 24, 2016.

The referendum follows a peaceful agreement between the British government and Scotland, even as Scottish citizens enjoy equal rights to the English. The independence aims to ensure full Scottish control over the economy, defense and foreign affairs.

“An independent Scotland will ensure that decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about it,” say the campaigners.

The referendum is legal. Britain and Scotland agreed on a settlement to hold the poll at the negotiation table. That said, according to the polls, only some 34 to 43 percent of voters are in favor, while the rest are opposed.

In 2005, 98 percent of voters approved a non-binding referendum in favor of Iraqi Kurdistan declaring independence.

Half of Southern Kurdistan, or Iraqi Kurdistan, are so-called disputed areas, much of which were under the Iraqi army’s control until Sunni insurgents led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacked Mosul and Kirkuk, and the Iraqi army shockingly retreated without defending the land or their people.

The Scottish people, on the other hand, would be confident that the United Kingdom would defend them under these circumstances.

The Shiite-dominant government of Nouri al-Maliki cut the Kurdistan Regional Government’s 17 percent share of the federal budget in early 2014 when the Kurds decided to export oil through Turkish pipelines. The KRG was forced to rely on internal revenue, delaying salaries for civil servants and freezing some development projects.

The Scottish people know for certain that a disagreement will never result in a budget cut.

The former Iraqi government committed genocide and horrific military campaigns against civilian Kurdish populations. These include the genocidal Anfal campaign which killed 180,000 Kurds, many of whom were buried alive; and the Halabja chemical attack in which 5,000 people were killed, including children and women.

The Scottish people have no such history of genocide, but importantly, they know the era of the Holocaust and the occupation are long dead. While recently, the Kurds raised their concerns when the US delivered the first of 36 F-16 fighter jets to Iraq—a 10 minute flight from the Kurdish capital, Erbil.

Kurds are distinct from Iraq’s majority Arab population: They speak Kurdish, not Arabic, and the Arabs categorize themselves either as Sunni or Shiite while Kurds identify themselves an ethnicity or a nation, not a religious group.

Scots, on the other hand, speak the same language and hold the same religion and culture as the rest of the UK.

Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution stipulates that normalization, a census and then with a referendum should be held in Kirkuk and other disputed territories. The referendum would determine whether residents in the disputed territories want to be governed by Baghdad or a regional government, and was to be held no later than Dec. 31, 2007. Yet to this day, the Iraqi government hasn’t implemented the article.

The Scottish parliament was established in 1999. Although it didn’t have the right to hold a referendum on independence, Westminster agreed to temporarily transfer legal authority to Edinburgh to legislate the referendum in parliament.

If it is understood that smaller countries like Finland are better off, then why shouldn’t Kurds be independent? If Scots choose to secede from the UK—a democratic country— then why shouldn’t the Kurds break away from an undemocratic Iraq?

More importantly, if the economy, among other things, is the main factor for the Scottish aspiration for independence, then shouldn’t decades of genocide, military threats and years of disregarding the Iraqi constitution be enough to motivate the Kurds to have a state of their own?

Finally, while the results of Scotland referendum remain unpredictable, a possible referendum in Kurdistan would undoubtedly result in a definitive yes for independence. The uncertainty lies in whether the international community will support the Kurds in exercising their right to self-determination.