ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The sixth Erbil International Marathon was held in the capital of the Kurdistan Region on Friday under the banner “Toward a Bright Future” despite ongoing clashes between Iraqi forces and the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia and Peshmerga Forces on the outskirt of the city.
The marathon had 5k and 10k races in which over 3,000 people participated, an event sponsored in part by Kurdistan 24.
“The international flight ban on the Kurdistan Region by the federal government hindered many foreign athletes from participating,” Abdulsattar Younus, head of Erbil Marathon Organization for Sport and Peace, told Kurdistan 24.
He mentioned that they had to cancel the 41k race for 2017 as a result of the flight ban, preventing individuals from around the world to take part in the major event.
The marathon took place in Sami Abdulrahman Park on Friday, at a time when ties between Erbil and Baghdad have considerably deteriorated and military clashes have erupted in disputed territories and the outskirts of Erbil.
“The insecurity and conflicts in Kirkuk and other disputed territories have not prevented us from holding the marathon because the Kurdistan Region's security and police forces in Erbil, as always, provide full security and assure the safety of all,” Younus added. “Erbil is totally safe.”
The first Erbil International Marathon was held in 2011, with over 1,500 people participating, including foreign citizens.
Editing by G.H. Renaud