Kurdistan leader dies one week after referendum

Published On October 3, 2017 | By Hayley Barnes | International, Politics

By: Wrence Trinidad

Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader and former Iraqi president, has died at the age of 83.

About a week after Kurdistan held for an independence referendum, their leader passed away in a Berlin hospital Tuesday morning, according to Iraqi state TV.

Talabani valiantly fought for the independence of the Kurdish people, a Middle Eastern ethnic group that wish to separate themselves from Turkey and Iraq.

A veteran of the Kurdish guerrilla movement, Talabani survived civil wars, exile and political corruption before he became the Kurdistan leader.

The Sept. 25 Iraqi Kurdish referendum resulted in an overwhelming 93 per cent vote in favour of building an independent nation.

The majority of Kurds ignored threats from Baghdad, Turkey and Iran as well as other international warnings, claiming that the vote may ignite even more regional conflict.

Turkish president, Tayyip Erdogan, went as far to say the Kurds “will pay price,” for voting.

Most of the Kurdish people reside in the centre region connecting Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, a land referred to as Greater Kurdistan.

With a population of over 30 million people, the Kurdish fight for statehood is still an ongoing battle that has lasted for decades.

People wave Kurdish flags in Diyarbakir, Turkey September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar

Joost R. Hiltermann, a Middle East expert with the International Crisis Group, spoke to The Washington Post about the legacy Talabani left behind.

“His biggest victory, and vindication, was to ascend to the presidency of Iraq, succeeding a dictator who had worked long and hard to eradicate the Kurdish national movement,” he said.

“Astoundingly, as president of Iraq, Talabani worked hard not to be seen as an advocate of the Kurds but to represent Iraqis, and to a large extent he succeeded,”

Talabani was the first non-Arab president of Iraq, elected two years after the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein. He had to step down early because of his deteriorating health.

The influential politician’s health has always been the subject of discussion, especially since suffering from a stroke in 2012 that left him in a comatose.

Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani attends the Inaugural Meeting of the Board of Entrepreneurs France-Iraq in Paris November 18, 2009. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

During his time in office, a statement was made on his official website, which said he was being treated for blocked arteries.

Before his death, Talabani was trying to ease the political crisis among Iraq’s three main groups, the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, who are all caught up in a contest for power and territory.

One of Talabani’s sons, Qubad, is the current deputy prime minister of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

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