Iraqi candidate withdraws from race over Kurdish clothes controversy in Kirkuk
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An Arab candidate in the disputed city of Kirkuk has dropped out of the upcoming Iraqi elections after being prevented from campaigning in traditional Kurdish clothes.
Ali Ghadeer, a Sunni Arab candidate from Kirkuk on the Bayariq al-Khair list led by the former Iraqi Defense Minister, Khalid al-Obeidi, withdrew his candidacy after being denied the opportunity to campaign while wearing traditional Kurdish attire.
“I told the directors of the list that I wanted to wear Kurdish clothes [while campaigning] to show we are all brothers and to show we want an end to tribal politics. They welcomed the idea,” Ghadeer told a Kurdistan 24 correspondent while still in his Kurdish clothes.
“But before arriving at the campaign event in Kirkuk, I received a call and was respectfully told to change my outfit. However, I was firm about my decision and argued that these clothes are part of Iraqi culture in which I take pride,” he continued.
Ghadeer added that some members on the list had labeled him a separatist, describing him as a dissenting figure merely for donning the traditional Kurdish attire, which they viewed as siding with their competitors.
He went on to reaffirm his support for Khalid’s list.
“I will not participate in the election as their candidate, but I will still vote for them.”
Ghadeer asserted that only a few candidates on the list expressed any opposition or animosity toward Kurds, claiming the problem was not a widespread one.
Following last year’s referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region, tensions between the Kurdish region and the rest of Iraq were at an all-time high. Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias on Oct. 16 attacked and took over the oil-rich and ethnically-diverse province of Kirkuk and other disputed territories in Nineveh, fomenting further division between the two communities.
The Iraqi parliamentary election, which includes the Kurdistan Region, is scheduled to be held on May 12. Over 7,000 candidates representing different parties are competing to fill 329 seats in Parliament.
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Soran Kamaran contributed to this report)