ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Shortly after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Friday called on Turkish authorities to release Kurdish tourists recently attacked and arrested for posing in pictures with the Kurdistan national flag, they were reported by a border official to have been freed and on their way home.
The release came one day after a video circulated on Kurdish social media platforms showing a group of tourists from the Kurdistan Region carrying a Kurdistan national flag scarf being attacked by locals in Turkey’s northeastern city of Trabzon while trying to take pictures.
“The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region [Masrour Barzani] has expressed his concern over the incident, and has tasked KRG’s relevant authorities to intervene with their Turkish counterparts to secure the tourists' immediate release,” read the statement released by the spokesperson of the KRG, Jotiar Adil.
“The flag of the Kurdistan Region is recognized by the Iraqi Constitution, and has been previously displayed at Turkish airports to welcome official delegates from the Kurdistan Region,” the spokesperson added.
Turkey is a key tourist destination for hundreds of thousands of tourists from the autonomous Kurdistan Region and Iraq who travel to many areas of the country.
The Kurdistan Region’s parliamentary committee for Foreign Relations and Diaspora Kurds also released a statement on Friday condemning “any type of discrimination by some of the citizens of Turkey against Kurdistan [Region] tourists in Trabzon city.”
The committee also extended calls to the Turkish authorities to immediately release the detained tourists.
Early Friday evening, the director of security at the Ibrahim Khalil border checkpoint, Abdul-Wahab Barzani, told Kurdistan 24 that all nine Kurdish detainees had been freed.
“Following the critical statement of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Turkish authorities at the Khabur [border] crossing released all detainees and, now, are on their way back to southern Kurdistan,” said Barzani.
Editing by Nadia Riva