In many ways 2018 could be a titanic year for LGBT rights and knowing where advances could be made can be a cause for spurring on activists on the ground and increasing the international attention paid to these struggles. In the first article on this subject, I looked at four countries that could see significant progress made in the coming year. These four were examples of nation-states where I would be actively surprised if something substantial didn’t happen in the next 12 months. The four countries at the focus of this article are still noteworthy, but would require a bigger push by campaigners and activists. This distinction in no way means that the follow countries are out of reach in 2018 as anti-LGBT attitudes are softening and the prospects for equality have never been better. In each instance there is either increasing public support for LGBT equality but an absence of political or new policy-makers are coming to the fore that would be sympathetic to a pro-equality agenda. Sustained international pressure could both force legislators into action and provide much needed solidarity to those activists on the ground. Continue reading →
The United Nations General Assembly has convened an emergency session in New York to, among other things, vote on a motion tabled by Yemen and Egypt to condemn the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The result was expected to be overwhelming and so it was. The vote was 128 in favour, 9 in opposition and 35 abstentions. The 9 opposed were Guatemala, Israel, Nauru, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Togo, Honduras and the US. Countries that abstained included Argentina, Australia, Canada, Mexico and Poland. The vote matches the overwhelming vote of the UN Security Council on Monday that was vetoed by the United States. The fallout will be one to watch.
In September the Kurdish people held a peaceful vote on independence and the result was an overwhelming majority in favour of creating a new nation-state. The final vote was 92.7 in favour of secession and 7.3% opposed. The independence vote was not legally permitted by the Iraqi government but due to the country’s current security situation Baghdad was unable to prevent the vote from taking place. Since this vote an economic blockade has been imposed by Iran and Turkey and flights into Kurdistan have been diverted to other parts of Iraq. Amid these tensions the government in Erbil has said that they are seeking to negotiate with Baghdad about Kurdistan’s future, and they have reiterated this stance in the face of continued pressure.
Iraq is going to change. After repeated calls from governments around the world to postpone the vote, Iraqi Kurds conducted a referendum on independence and overwhelmingly backed the creation of a new state. With all precincts reporting, over 92% of residents in Iraqi Kurdistan voted to support the proposition with only 7% of voters backing continuing as part of Iraq. Overall turnout was around 72%. Although this exercise in democracy should be seen as a positive development, the other players in Middle Eastern geopolitics are not respecting the result and are now trying to coerce Kurds into remaining within Iraq.
For a number of months I’ve been covering the ongoing situation in Kurdistan both in terms of the fight against ISIS and in regard to their desire for an independent nation-state. Opponents of the independence referendum on 25th September have sought to conflate these two issues and argue that an independent Kurdistan would only strengthen ISIS’ hand. This is patently false as a strong Kurdish state would challenge Saudi Arabia’s influence in the region therefore undermining some of the ideological foundations of groups like ISIS. Further, if Turkey continued to bomb Kurdish forces and civilians Erbil could turn to international institutions like the UN thus forcing hostile powers to refocus on the fight against ISIS. It appears, however, that the Iraqi government in Baghdad has a different view.
On 25th September the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will vote on whether or not to secede from Iraq and become an independent nation-state. Unsurprisingly this has caused much consternation in both Baghdad and Ankara however analysts are nonetheless expecting a clear majority of Kurds to vote for independence. The problem facing the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has been one of legitimacy as the Iraqi government have refused to legally permit a referendum from taking place, and therefore it would be unclear as to how the international community would react. This week the KRG and international Kurdish liberation movement received a boost from the man seeking to become Germany’s next Chancellor.
Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region in the north-east of the country and has a somewhat fractured relationship with the government in Baghdad. Relations between the two authorities is much better than under Saddam Hussein, although this is a very low bar, but there remains a perception in Erbil that the Iraqi central government is both corrupt and incompetent. It is this perception that last week resulted in leading politicians announcing that the region would hold a referendum on independence from Iraq. This development is something that I have long argued for and could be a game-changer for the Middle East.