ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The mayor of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, Issa al-Sayer, on Saturday issued a letter of apology to the people of the autonomous Kurdistan Region for the recent case of a Kurdish citizen in the city being insulted while wearing a traditional Kurdish outfit at a restaurant where he works.
The Kurdish citizen was identified as Kaka Hunar, Kurdish for "Mr. Hunar," and was working as a chef in a local restaurant in central Fallujah, in Iraq's western province of Anbar.
On Thursday night, a group of people approached him and insulted him with racist taunts, telling him to close his restaurant with threatening language, according to activists in Fallujah.
Mayor Sayer in his public letter stated that “a group of drunk people attacked” Hunar late at night.
“This happened two days ago and these actions do not accurately reflect the people of Fallujah, who were embraced by the cities of the Kurdistan Region, especially Erbil,” he said, referring to the large number of displaced Fallujans that have sought safe haven in the Kurdistan Region following the Islamic State's emergence in 2014.
He added that the local administration had welcomed Hunar when he opened a restaurant and facilitated all the required documents.
“What happened is far from the moral conduct of the people of Fallujah… The aggressors, who have been arrested, will be held accountable and will be brought to justice,” he said, without providing additional details.
In the past few days, activists in Fallujah appealed to local authorities on Iraqi social media networks, urging them to intervene and protect the Kurdish citizen.
Hunar is well-known to have been working in Fallujah for a long time, a regular patron of his restaurant told Kurdistan 24. “We consider him as one of us - not a guest.”
A source from the local police station explained that, after officers received reports from multiple people and monitored the appeals, they immediately acted to protect Hunar.
Anbar province has witnessed other such incidents in past years, namely in the city of Fallujah, where many Kurdish families have been living for decades after being forcefully displaced there by the former Iraqi regime as part of a campaign of demographic change known as Arabization in multiple Kurdish-majority areas.
Following the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were displaced to the Kurdistan Region, many among them Fallujans.
The small Kurdish town of Shaqlawa, located 45 kilometers northeast of the city of Erbil, has hosted thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Fallujah for years. The local people of Fallujah, informally but interestingly, combined the names Shaqlawa and Fallujah to create the new name "Shaqlujah," an indication of the considerable number of Fallujans now in the area.
Editing by John J. Catherine