Iraqis Kurdish women celebrate with the Kurdish flag as they ride outside the windows and roof of a taxi in the northern city of Kirkuk on September 25, 2017 as they vote in a referendum on independence. AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
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Some Kurdish leaders described Monday's referendum on independence as a historic chance for the ethnic group to shape its own destiny after decades of oppression, yet there was little enthusiasm for voting in the city of Sulaimaniyah.In Sulaimaniyah, home of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, officials caution that the vote could invite trouble from Turkey and Iran, and a referendum should be held at a more appropriate time.Those neighboring countries fear independence will encourage their own restive Kurdish populations to press for change. The Baghdad government says the vote is unconstitutional.Barzani and Talabani fought on opposing sides in an Iraqi Kurdish civil war in the 1990s that saw Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish forces drawn into the fighting.Tensions are high between Kurdish fighters and Iranian-backed Shiite militias.Some Iraqis have suggested the country should be split into Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions as a way of managing sectarian and ethnic tensions.At another polling station, Kurdish security guard Sarbast Saeed urged the Shiite-led Baghdad government to rein in Iranian-backed Shiite militias instead of complaining about a possible Kurdish state.
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