Iraqi Kurdish leader on planned 2016 independence referendum: “Inshallah.”

Published May 19th, 2016 - 03:13 GMT
President of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region speaks in Erbil on January 11, 2015 (AFP Photo/Safin Hamed)
President of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region speaks in Erbil on January 11, 2015 (AFP Photo/Safin Hamed)

In an interview with the U.S. magazine The Nation, president of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani had an interesting answer when asked if a planned referendum on the region’s independence from Baghdad would take place in 2016. His answer? “Inshallah,” Arabic for “God willing.”

“Inshallah” has a variety of interpretations depending on the context. It’s not uncommon for Arab taxi drivers to respond with the phrase when asked where a place is, or if they have change for larger bills. Sometimes it’s closer to yes, sometimes closer to no; sometimes it means hopefully.

So what did Barzani mean when he said “inshallah?” The Nation’s article on the Barzani interview published yesterday on May 18th. In the interview, he declared that the borders drawn by the Sykes-Picot agreement-which defined much of the modern Middle East including Iraq-were “the mistake of the century.” The article further notes he has called for independence since Daesh (ISIS) swept through Iraq in 2014.

This is not the first time a prominent political leader has answered “inshallah” when asked an important question. When asked if a deal on Iran’s nuclear program was possible during negotiations between the U.S. and Iran, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry reportedly said “inshallah” in 2015.

The Iran deal was eventually struck on July 14th, 2015. So did Kerry mean yes when he uttered the common Arabic phrase? Will Kurdish independence go through too? Only time will tell, inshallah.


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