The Kurds, an Indo-European people from a mountainous region now divided by Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq, have earnestly sought a nation-state of their own since at least the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1922. In 1932, Iraq secured independence from Britain, but this marked the start of a long struggle by the Kurds to survive under a punishing regime controlled by the country’s minority population of Sunni Arabs. Between 1986 and 1989, Saddam Hussein launched Operation Al Anfal – literally translated as ‘Spoils of War’ – targeting Kurds and other minorities in Northern Iraq. The genocidal campaign led to the deaths of an estimated 180,000 persons. Following the US invasion and deposition of the ruling Baath party in 2003, a new constitution guaranteeing protections for minority populations was presented to the people. On October 15, 2005, the Kurds voted overwhelmingly in support of the new consititution. The photos here were all taken on the day of the referendum in the city of Sulaymaniya, Kurdistan, Iraq.