Kurdish Flag fans Controversy in Kirkuk

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Controversy ensued when the flag of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was raised in Kirkuk on March 28. The local government in the province insisted on having the Kurdish flag fly alongside the Iraqi federal one, although the federal government in Baghdad disapproved of this decision.

The local government in Kirkuk province, in northern Iraq, voted on raising the KRG flag alongside the Iraqi federal one atop state institution buildings in the province. The voting session, held on March 28, was boycotted by 16 Arab and Turkmen members; only the 25 Kurdish members attended.

Less than 24 hours later, demonstrators took to the streets in Erbil, the KRG capital, to protest the decision. However, no one expected such demonstrations to occur in Erbil, which is controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Massoud Barzani, one of the most prominent supporters of Kurdish dominance in Kirkuk.

In a session held April 1, the Iraqi parliament rejected the Kirkuk council decision and voted in favor of displaying only the Iraqi flag on public buildings in Kirkuk. Kurdish members left the parliament before the vote took place.

On the other hand, the KRG presidency supported raising the Kurdish flag over state buildings in Kirkuk, saying, “Raising the KRG flag atop Kirkuk’s buildings and facilities is both natural and legal, just as raising the Iraqi flag is.”

An official position was also expressed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said that raising the KRG flag in Kirkuk, which is not part of the KRG, is a violation of the Iraqi Constitution and the law governing provinces outside of the KRG.

Hadithi said in a press statement on March 28, “Kirkuk was not within the areas under the KRG government’s control on April 19, 2003. This is why it follows the federal government instead and it is still receiving the salaries of its employees from the government. So it cannot take such a decision [to raise the Kurdish flag] without first consulting the federal government.”

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