The longtime president of the Iraqi region of Kurdistan said Sunday that he intends to resign, a month after he led a widely criticized referendum on independence that triggered a military response by the Iraqi government.

Masoud Barzani, whose father had been the face of the Kurdish minority’s struggle in Iraq, had promised that the vote on independence from Baghdad would be a vital step in a century-long fight for self-rule. Instead, it unraveled many of the gains the Kurds had made in carving out a semiautonomous region in northern Iraq after decades of war.

Barzani, appearing on television late Sunday for the first time since the referendum, denounced the global reaction to the vote as a betrayal of the Kurdish people. He suggested that his political opponents had worked with Baghdad and the United States to stamp out a peaceful democratic exercise by Kurds seeking full autonomy.

He also urged his supporters not to despair, saying 3 million Kurdish votes for independence cannot be “erased by history.”


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Featured image courtesy of AP