The promotion of nation-states and the spread of people’s right to self-determination have led to the emergence of national and secessionist movements around the world and consequently impose a serious threat to the territorial integrity of the already established states. The Iraqi Kurds are one of these groups and have fought for their independence since the end of World War I. They were oppressed by successive Iraqi governments that did not recognize their national rights. The Kurdish struggle in Iraq reaped a limited autonomy in the 1970s but fell short of the expectation of the Kurds and was crippled by the insincerity of the Iraqi government and the interference of external powers. The greatest twentieth century development to the Kurdish status in Iraq took place following the Gulf War in the early 1990s when the Iraqi government was compelled to pull out of the three Kurdish provinces of Duhok, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. As a result, the Kurds gained an opportunity to rule themselves separately from the Iraqi government and under the protection of the international community. They have established their own government and other state institutions and have managed to create the foundation of an entity which has become like a de facto state, but have so far failed to convert it into a de jure state. The purpose of this research is to examine the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s (KRI) endeavours of gaining recognition and its prospects of becoming an independent state. Like in other de facto states, the pursuit of international legitimacy was the main motivation behind the conduct and policy of KRI. The Kurds in Iraq have employed various legitimization strategies in their quest for recognition. Their justifications for claiming statehood include remedial secession, democracy and earned sovereignty, the right to external self-determination and Iraq’s failure as their base state. The study is aimed to contribute to the study of de facto states in general, including their evolution and their legitimization strategies, and of the evolution of the KRI as a de facto state and the legitimization justifications it utilized particularly in its endeavor of claiming statehood. By examining the KRI from 1990 to 2018, the study resolves to explain the creation and evolution of the KRI as a de facto state and its pursuit of international recognition.