Kurdistan

Iraqi Kurds fly Kurdish flags during an event to urge people to vote in the upcoming independence

Kurdistan is a region straddling northern Iraq, Western Iran, eastern Turkey and parts of Syria and Armenia. Some 30 million Kurds inhabit the region, and have struggled for decades recognition, influence, and an independent nation-state.

The hopes for a sovereign state may become reality on September 25, 2017, when Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq holds a referendum for independence.

The KRG has declared that the referendum will be “binding” - in other words, if a majority of the 5 million voters choose independence, as is widely expected, they will initiate the breakaway process. Iraq’s Shi’ite-dominated government in Baghdad has made it clear that they will not recognize the referendum’s results, but it is unclear how they can prevent Kurdish independence.

Turkey, which has the region's largest Kurdish population, fears a "Yes"' vote could fuel separatism in its southeast where Kurdish militants have waged an insurgency for three decades in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

The U.S., Iran and Syria also oppose the referendum out of fears that it would destabilize the region.

Israel, however, has recently voiced support for an independent Kurdistan. "A stable and unified Kurdish entity in the middle of this swamp, is not a bad idea," Netanyahu said in September. The prime minister added that while Israel sees the Kurdish guerillas PKK as a terrorist organization, "it supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state."