Iraqi Kurdistan stands up for its flag
Khanaqin, Iraqi Kurdistan — On 11 October Khanaqin mayor Mohamed al-Mullah Hamed received a ruling on behalf Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri el Maliki ordering the Kurdish majority town to remove the Kurdish national flag from all government buildings. The order came after as part of a controversial reaffirmation of Khanaqin as under the jurisdiction of the central government of Iraq rather than as a part of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government. Khanaqin isn’t formally a part of the Kurdistan Regional Government, but it is a majority Kurdish city that chooses to ally itself with the KRG. As many people cried out last Wednesday and Thursday, “Khanaqin remains Kurdish!”
Revealing the degree of authority that central Iraq has over the autonomous Kurdistan, not a single flag was lowered, and the order was left alone by the authorities. Reports of thousands of people across Iraqi Kurdistan, with the focus of the protests in Khanaqin itself. Protesters waved Kurdish flags, chanted Kurdish nationalist slogans and anti-government protests, and there were some reports of a protester’s unsuccessful self-immolation.
Maliki’s spokesman, Ali al Moussawi, called the Kurdish flags a “constitutional violation“, claiming that Kurdish flags in cities not officially under Kurdish control will provoke the Arab residents. The protests were so widespread that schools and businesses were closed through Khanaqin, and Kurdish flags were displayed not just on government buildings, but on walls, out of windows, and on buses and cars.
Almost a week after the protests, Kurdish flags are still waving proudly from government buildings and the ill-thought out order has apparently been forgotten, although no official comment over the protests was made by Maliki or any of his representatives.