As Iraqi Kurdistan moves toward independence, Iraqi minorities, including Sunni Arabs who are minorities within the region, are welcoming the new regime, according to The Washington Post:
His village is occupied by Sunni militants of the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State; his other home is in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, under the control of Kurdish soldiers known as pesh merga. Ali swears that both are preferable to the Shiite-dominated central government that has excluded and persecuted Sunni Arabs like him. […]“The pesh merga is better than the Islamic State, and the Islamic State is better than the government. There is no going back.”He is not alone. Most residents interviewed across this ethnically and religiously diverse region say they are far better off since Kurdish forces moved into Kirkuk and nearby towns after the Iraqi army abandoned its posts last month during an Islamic State onslaught. The groundswell of support extends from the Kurdish majority to minority Sunni Arabs and ethnic Turkmens, who have previously resisted Kurdish efforts to absorb the area.
Many residents who fled the initial fighting are starting to return, according to the Post, and while the economy is suffering during the conflict, the growth experienced by Kurdish areas in recent years has inspired long-term hope.In the short-term, minority residents are simply grateful that the Kurdish peshmerga seem to protect everyone:
“The Kurds don’t care if you are Sunni or Shiite or Christian; they are practical,” [a Turkmen farmer] said. “If they stay here, things will be better for everyone.” […]Asked whether he would vote to become part of an independent Kurdistan if given the chance, Ahmad [a Sunni Arab] mustered a smile. “If that happens,” he said, “there will be a big party here.”