0324 GMT March 22, 2018
The protest took place on Wednesday, after Massoud Barzani, the leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), entered the city to discuss the independence bid with Iraqi President Fuad Masum and a number of Kurdish leaders.
Kurdistan officials deployed a large number of security forces in various parts of the city to disperse the protesters, who chanted slogans against Barzani and condemned any attempt at partitioning Iraq.
Kurdish security forces arrested 20 activists protesting Barzani’s visit to the city, which was his first since 2013.
Barzani defiant amid mounting criticism
The Kurdish leader has been adamantly pressing ahead with his plans to hold the September 25 vote, ignoring international calls to drop the bid and negotiate a deal that does not affect Iraq’s integrity.
On Tuesday, he gave Baghdad three days to come up with an alternative plan that was guaranteed by “the international community, the US and Europe.”
“But I will be honest with you, Baghdad has not reached that level yet,” he said, warning that postponing the vote was “impossible.”
Masum, himself a Kurd, has been meeting with Kurdish officials in an attempt to dissolve the vote.
According to his office, the Iraqi president has invited all leaders to call off the referendum and concentrate their efforts on defeating the Daesh terrorist group instead.
The United Nations and the US as well as regional powers like Iran and Turkey have also expressed concerns about the planned vote by the KRG, arguing that it could create further instability in the already volatile region.
The Israeli regime, however, has come out in apparent support of the controversial referendum.
Iraqi Kurdish lawmakers on Friday approved holding the secession vote in the face of fierce opposition from the central government in Baghdad, the United Nations and the US.
Besides undermining Iraq’s integrity and derailing the successful campaign against terror groups, Baghdad argues that the vote also violates the constitution.
On Monday Iraq's Supreme Court ordered the deferral of the referendum to examine whether such a poll would be constitutional.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Saturday that Kurdish authorities were “playing with fire.”
“This decision poses the biggest danger to our citizens in Kurdistan,” he warned.