TORONTO (Kurdistan 24) – “It’s about time we recognized Kurdistan as a nation,” Toronto City Councillor Jim Karygiannis said on Friday ahead of a historic Kurdistan flag raising ceremony to mark the 31st anniversary of the Halabja genocide.
Karygiannis was at the heart of an initiative to turn the Canadian Kurdish community’s dream into a reality. In February, he introduced a motion to the City of Toronto which called for a bypass to a protocol on the city’s flag raising criteria.
An initial proposal was rejected on grounds the Kurdistan flag “is an official symbol of the sub-national Kurdistan Region of Iraq.” However, after strong efforts by the Toronto councillor and the local Kurdish community – in particular, the leadership of Sartip Kakayee, an executive member of the Greater Toronto Kurdish House – an amendment to the flag raising criteria was approved.
Karygiannis said the ceremony would honor the victims of the 1988 Halabja genocide, a brutal massacre which killed nearly 5,000 people and injured 10,000 more.
“There are people out there in the world that don’t believe this,” he told Kurdistan 24. “This happened. Saddam Hussein gassed his own people, and this is a genocide, and we in Toronto are recognizing that fact, and we’re going to raise the flag of Kurdistan.”
The councillor, who describes himself as “a long friend of the Kurdish people,” highlighted the “long relationship” Canada shares with the Kurdistan Region. He pointed to members of Canada’s Armed Forces who fought alongside Peshmerga with the Kurdish flag on their shoulder pads.
“The relationship between the city of Toronto and the city of Erbil is something that we need to build on,” Karygiannis said, adding he plans to visit the Kurdistan Region capital in the future “to do a memorandum of understanding between the two cities on culture and other items.”
Karygiannis’ previous trip to Kurdistan came in 2013 where he visited Halabja on the 25th anniversary of the tragic genocide.
We are raising the Kurdish flag “for the rest of the people to recognize that Canada, as well as the rest of the world, is at the side of the Kurdish nation,” he affirmed.
“Keep on fighting, and keep on struggling for the recognition of a Kurdish nation, for unity of a Kurdish nation.”
The Kurdistan flag will be raised at Toronto City Hall on Saturday at 3 p.m. local time.