Iraqi Kurds have voted in favor of a referendum for their independence, the Kurdish region's president, Masoud Barzani, announced Tuesday.
Countries in the region viewed the Kurdish vote with hostility. Iraq was opposed to the vote because a redrawing of its borders to accommodate Kurdistan would mean the loss of its oil-rich northern territory. In Iran and Turkey, "leaders feared the move would embolden their own Kurdish populations," The Associated Press reports.
Barzani declared Kurdistan would be "diverse and democratic," Al-Hayat's Joy Karam reports. Barzani said Sunday, ahead of the vote, that "we are ready to pay any price for our independence."
"We will take measures to safeguard the nation's unity and protect all Iraqis," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned in response.
The Kurds have been a major regional ally for the United States in the fight against the Islamic State, although America opposed their vote, citing the threat of "instability and discord." In fighting ISIS, though, Kurdish forces captured territory they claim they have a right to, including northwestern Iraq and the Iranian border to the east, AP adds.
"I feel so great and happy. I feel we'll be free," said one Kurd, Suad Pirot of Kirkuk, after voting on Monday. "Nobody will rule us. We will be independent."