Iraqi Kurdistan or Southern Kurdistan (Kurdish: باشووری کوردستان / Başûrê Kurdistanê), also known as theKurdistan Region (Kurdish: ههرێمی کوردستان / Herêmî Kurdistan) is an autonomous region in Northern Iraq. It borders the Kurdish regions of Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, and Syria to the west, along with the rest of Iraq to the south. The regional capital is Erbil, known in Kurdish as Hewlêr. The region is officially governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Kurdistan is a parliamentary democracy with a regional assembly that consists of 111 seats. The current president is Masoud Barzani, who was initially elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2009. In August 2013 the parliament extended his presidency for another two years. The new Iraqi constitution defines Iraqi Kurdistan as a federal entity of Iraq, and establishes Kurdish and Arabic as Iraq’s joint official languages. The four governorates of Duhok, Hawler, Silemani, and Halabja comprise around 41,710 square kilometres (16,100 sq mi) and have a population of 8.35 million (2013 estimate). In 2014, during the 2014 Iraq Crisis, Iraqi Kurdistan’s forces also took over much of the disputed territories of Northern Iraq.
The establishment of the Kurdistan Region dates back to the March 1970 autonomy agreement between the Kurdish opposition and the Iraqi government after years of heavy fighting. The agreement however failed to be implemented and by 1974 Northern Iraq plunged into another round of bloody conflict between the Kurds and the Arab-dominated government of Iraq. Further, the 1980-8 Iran–Iraq War and especially the Anfal genocide campaign of the Iraqi army devastated the population and nature of Iraqi Kurdistan. Following the 1991 uprisingof Kurds in the north and Shia’s in the south against Saddam Hussein, the Peshmerga succeeded in pushing out the main Iraqi forces from the north. Despite significant casualties and the crisis of refugees in bordering regions of Iran and Turkey, the Peshmerga success and establishment of the northern no-fly zone following the First Gulf War in 1991, created the basis for Kurdish self-rule and facilitation of return of Kurdish refugees. As Kurds continued to fight government troops, Iraqi forces finally left Kurdistan in October 1991, leaving the region with de facto autonomy. In 1992, Kurdish major political movements of KDP and PUK established the semi-autonomousKurdistan Regional Government. The 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent political changes led to the ratification of a new Constitution of Iraq in 2005.
As of 2014, Iraqi Kurdistan is in dispute with the Federal Iraqi government, on the issues of territorial control, export of oil and budget distribution and is functioning largely outside Baghdad’s control. With the escalation of the Iraqi Crisis and fears of Iraq’s collapse, Kurds have increasingly debated the issue of independence. In June 2014, the Kurdish President announced plans to hold an official independence referendum “within several months”