KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – The Governor of Kirkuk Najmaldin Karim on Wednesday suggested the Prime Minister of Iraq launch an appeal in court should he truly deem the raising of the Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk “unconstitutional.”
“I haven’t heard the [Iraqi] Prime Minister’s speech,” Karim responded when asked about Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s comments on the issue by a Kurdistan24 correspondent in Kirkuk.
“The Prime Minister himself has previously said the Kurdistan flag has been present in Kirkuk for a decade, even though it has been there longer than that,” the Governor continued.
“If they [Baghdad] find it unconstitutional, they can go to the court of the Federal Judiciary Authority to appeal the decision,” he added.
On March 28, the Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC) approved the hoisting of the Kurdistan national flag alongside the Iraqi one on top of all state buildings in the province.
Some Arab and Turkmen members of the council notably boycotted the meeting.
During his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Abadi claimed the Kirkuk administration does not have the authority to unilaterally choose to raise a flag other than the Iraqi national flag over state offices.
“They do not have the right to raise the Kurdistan Region’s flag on government buildings,” Abadi said.
“They can fly the flag on their parties’ offices, but government buildings belong to the Iraqi government,” he affirmed.
In the Council’s previous meeting regarding the matter, Rebwar Talabani, head of the KPC, argued the flag does not represent Kurds alone but is a symbol of coexistence between different ethnic and religious groups.
Talabani also mentioned there were no articles in the constitution of Iraq that prohibit or preclude such a move.
Although Kurds make up a majority of the population, Kirkuk is one of the most diverse provinces in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, consisting of different ethnic and religious groups such as Arabs, Turkmen, and Christians.
The area, rich in natural resources such as oil and gas, is one of the disputed territories between the Federal Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
When the Islamic State (IS) emerged in northern Iraq, the Iraqi army failed to defend Kirkuk.
Since June 2014, Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been protecting the province, which has been the target of numerous attacks by IS.
Kirkuk has gone through several stages of Arabization in the past decades, with the forced displacement of Arab families aiming to deter the KRG from claiming the region as part of the Kurdistan Region.
Editing by Gabrielle Renaud and Karzan Sulaivany