BAGHDAD, June 8 (Xinhua) -- The Iraqi Turkoman minority on Thursday rejected the decision of the Kurdish regional government to set a date to hold a referendum on independence in the autonomous region of Kurdistan and the disputed areas, including Kirkuk.
The rejection by the Iraqi Turkoman Front (ITF), an umbrella body for several Turkoman parties, came a day after Masoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdish region, announced the referendum on September 25 following a meeting with the Kurdish political parties in Arbil, the capital city of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
The Kurdish move is a "clear violation of the Iraqi constitution which emphasizes the unity of Iraq," and because the insertion of the areas outside the Kurdish region (in the referendum) is unilateral action against the will of the Turkoman, Arab and other residents of the area (disputed areas), the ITF said in a statement.
The ITF demanded the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi parliament and all political parties to "take concrete measures against any step aimed at dividing Iraq and that any such proposal should be discussed first inside the parliament and with the consent of all components," according to the statement.
So far, the Iraqi government has no official reaction to the referendum declaration and is expected to oppose the Kurdish move in protest to the timing as the Iraqi forces are in fighting against terrorism, including the Islamic State (IS) militant group, and because of the disputed areas outside the region.
Disagreements between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government have been high for years, as the ethnic Kurds consider the northern oil-rich province of Kirkuk and parts of Nineveh, Diyala and Salahudin provinces as disputed areas and want them to be incorporated into their region, a move fiercely opposed by the Arabs and Turkomans and by Baghdad government.
The Iraqi government will see the Kurdish move illegal, as the article 140 of Iraq's 2005 constitution calls for several steps to address the dispute over the ethically-mixed disputed areas, including a referendum.
However, problems raised among the conflicting ethnicities, as Arabs and Turkomans accuse the Kurds of carrying out demographic change in the disputed areas, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk in the years after 2003, while the Kurds are accusing Saddam Hussein's regime of displacing thousands of Kurds who were replaced with Arabs to make Kirkuk a predominantly Arab province.
On March 28, Kirkuk's council voted in raising the Kurdish flag alongside the Iraqi flag on the building of the provincial council despite the withdrawal of Arab and Turkoman council members, who argued that the move is a pre-decision that Kirkuk is part of Kurdistan.
The independence of Kurdistan could be opposed also by neighboring countries of Turkey, Iran and Syria who will see that such a step would threaten their territorial integrity, as larger populations of Kurds live in those countries.