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Kurds Stage Protests in Local Airports Amid Suspension of Int'l Flights

© REUTERS / Azad LashkariPassengers walk towards the check-in counters at Erbil International Airport, Iraq September 27, 2017
Passengers walk towards the check-in counters at Erbil International Airport, Iraq September 27, 2017 - Sputnik International
Following the independence referendum, Baghdad has resorted to restrictive measures banning all international flights to and from airports in the Iraqi Kurdistan region which prompted protests among the Kurdish population.

ERBIL (Sputnik) — Several rallies took place on Friday at Iraqi Kurdistan's airports in response to Baghdad's decision to suspend international flights to and from the autonomous region, a Sputnik correspondent reported.

On Monday, the referendum on Iraqi Kurdistan's independence took place in the autonomous region as well as in a number of areas officially controlled by Iraqi authorities. According to the Independent High Elections and Referendum Commission, 92.7 percent of voters supported the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan from Baghdad. The independence vote has been widely criticized not only by Iraq itself, but by Turkey, Iran, the United States and the United Nations.

On Wednesday, the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) said in a statement that all international flights to and from Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports would be suspended starting from 15:00 GMT on Friday.

The protests took place at airports of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah just minutes before the flights ban took effect, with the people shouting slogans in support of the referendum and independence from Baghdad.

"We came here to say that… the Kurdish people do not deserve such attitude only because they want to become independent," a young woman told Sputnik.

The last plane that left the airspace of Iraqi Kurdistan was the flight to Istanbul. According to testimonies of those attempting to purchase the tickets on Friday, the price for this flight in the morning jumped by half.

Earlier in the day, Baghdad said that three military convoys would be sent to Iraqi Kurdistan in order to establish control over the border crossings located in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Following the referendum, the Iraqi parliament voted in favor of dismissal of all Kurdish public sector employees, involved in the vote and sending troops to the disputed areas of Kurdistan, particularly to the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

At the same time, the central government also called on foreign states to halt oil imports from Iraqi Kurdistan and to carry out oil trade only with Baghdad.

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