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Video: Kurdish independence vote raises tensions in Kirkuk

© FRANCE 24 screenshot | The disputed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk participating in Kurdistan's independence referendum on September 25, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-09-25

In the disputed city of Kirkuk, hoisting the Kurdish flag is a controversial matter. Both Baghdad and Erbil lay claim to this oil-rich province.

Iraq's central government sees Kurdistan's decision to include Kirkuk in the September 25 independence referendum as an effort to annex the area. In the city's main market, many people are worried about an uncertain future.

“The people of Kirkuk are afraid because of this referendum," said one stallholder. "They don’t want to go through the same instability like in Mosul, Tikrit or Anbar."

Among those opposed to the Kurds's push to hold the referendum in Kirkuk are the Arab and Turkmen communities, who fear their own rights could be overlooked.

But some of Kirkuk's youth have hope in the city's long history of diversity.

"Every day I speak three languages," said Mourad, a young Turkmen musician.

"When I meet a Kurd I speak Kurdish; when I meet an Arab I speak Arabic. I've known my friends for 20 years and we've never given much thought to the fact we are from different ethnic groups."

Should tensions spill into violence, the contested province of Kirkuk is likely to be the epicentre of a new civil war.

Click on the video player above to view the report.

Date created : 2017-09-23

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