TORONTO (Kurdistan 24) – Dozens of Kurds gathered in Canada’s largest city Toronto on Saturday to witness a historic flag raising ceremony on the 31st anniversary of the Halabja genocide.
The auspicious event was held at Toronto’s city hall to honor the victims of the 1988 Halabja genocide, a brutal massacre committed by the former Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein which killed nearly 5,000 people and injured 10,000 more.
Kurds and non-Kurds, including members of the Canadian Parliament, braved through the winter chills to witness the historic moment the Kurdistan flag was raised.
Toronto City Councillor Jim Karygiannis was at the heart of the flag-raising 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.
During his speech, Karygiannis highlighted that Canada was one of the first countries in the world to recognize the Halabja massacre as a genocide in 2009, leading the path for other nations to do the same.
“Ten years later, we stand shoulder to shoulder” with the people of Kurdistan, he said.
The Kurdistan flag will remain raised at Toronto City Hall until noon local time on Sunday.