Children holding flags run around and smile towards the camera
Children holding Kurdish flags run on the streets of the disputed city of Kirkuk, Monday Sept. 25, 2017. Millions are expected to vote on Monday in Iraq's Kurdish-run provinces and disputed territories as Iraqi Kurds cast ballots in support for independence from Baghdad in a historic but non-binding vote. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)

Alhurra and Radio Sawa cover the Kurdish referendum

From the announcement that there would be a Kurdish referendum for independence to the press conference confirming the final vote tally, Alhurra and Radio Sawa were on hand to provide the latest news on the referendum, as well as reaction from throughout Iraq and the world.

As the polls opened on September 25th in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Alhurra (and Alhurra-Iraq) were there on hand with special programming starting at 7 a.m. (Iraq time). The networks were live with 14 hours of breaking news coverage, the most comprehensive coverage of a pan-Arab network. Alhurra had reaction from the Iraqi Prime Minister Albadi, who stated that the referendum was unconstitutional. The network also reported on reaction from the U.S., the U.N., major European countries, and Iraq’s neighbors Turkey and Iran, who all strongly opposed the referendum. The night before the vote, Alhurra’s flagship discussion program Free Hour hosted Iraqi, Kurdish and Turkish political analysts to deliberate how the vote will play out and the impact it will have on Iraq. The network also reported on the Iraqi government’s request that foreign countries stop purchasing oil from Erbil; as well as how the referendum vote is impacting the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

Alhurra-Iraq had an extensive team of reporters across Iraq including in Erbil, Sulaymaniyyah, Mosul and Kirkuk. It covered Kurdish Regional President Barzani’s remarks that independence does not mean redrawing borders. The network also looked at the legalities of the referendum since the National Union party refused the hold the vote in their province.

Alhurra-Iraq’s daily talk show In Iraq examined the roots of the disagreements between Baghdad and Erbil, and the benefit of dialogue between the two. Although there were many international observers for the referendum, many countries announced they would not recognize the results. The network also reported on Vice President Allawi’s suggested initiative that would have leaders in the region temporarily freeze the results of the referendum and sit for a dialogue; along with reaction from some Parliamentary members who rejected it because they considered it an implicit acceptance of the results. Alhurra-Iraq also covered on the Iraqi Parliamentary Speaker’s condemnation of the referendum saying it is unconstitutional and illegal.

After the polling stations closed, Free Hour guests discussed what is next since it seems the vote was overwhelmingly positive for independence. The network reported on celebrations taking place in the Kurdistan region following the vote. Aftermath coverage continued as Alhurra covered the Turkish President’s remarks that he didn’t expect Barzani to make the mistake of holding the referendum; the thousands of Iranian Kurds who marched in the streets to show their solidarity for the independence referendum, as well as reaction from Jewish Kurds living in Israel. Alhurra had live coverage of the Election Committee’s official announcement of the results of the vote, in which they said nearly 93 percent had voted for independence. Alhurra’s reporting included the Iraqi Parliament’s call for the government to take control of all the oil fields in the Kurdish region; as well as airlines suspending flights from the airports in that region. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) spoke to Alhurra with his reaction to the vote, in addition to statements made by the White House and the Pentagon.

Radio Sawa’s newscasts had updates throughout the days leading up to the vote and immediately following it with reaction from all sides. On the day of the vote, Radio Sawa’s Sawa Magazine interviewed voters talked about their hopes and concerns following the results. The day after the vote, Sawa Magazine examined how Kurdish independence will change the dynamics between Iraq and the Kurdish region, as well as the relationship with international players. Radio Sawa’s daily call-in program What’s Your Opinion? asked listeners if they thought the traditional coalition between Shias and Kurdish political parties would end because of the referendum vote. Most callers agreed that it was not a strong coalition, they were together because it was mutually beneficial. However, a caller from Mosul said that the Kurds should return their land to Iraq before declaring independence. Following the results What’s Your Opinion? asked if the Iraqi government would implement the threats they have called for regarding the airports and blocking of oil exports. One caller from Anbar said that everyone is so concerned with the referendum, no one is talking about the ISIS attack on three districts in Ramadi. A caller from Erbil said the federal government’s decision will impact the Kurdish people, not Barzani, and that the solution should come from a dialogue.