The Kurdistan flag flying Tuesday night at the offices of the PUK in Kirkuk. Photo: PUK Media
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s counter-terror unit has given the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) a deadline to lower the Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk, according to reports.
The commander in the force, Abdulwahab al-Saadi, arrived in Kirkuk on Thursday to take control of the situation and has told the PUK to lower the flag by midday on Friday, Iraqi daily newspaper Azzaman reported.
The PUK raised the flag at their offices in the disputed city on Tuesday.
While Kurds celebrated in the streets, Iraqi officials quickly called the move “unconstitutional” and demanded it be taken down.
Acting governor of the province Rakan al-Jabouri called for Baghdad to send army reinforcements and Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said no changes should be made to the disputed province until Article 140 is enacted.
Abdul-Mahdi received PUK lawmakers in Baghdad on Thursday to discuss the matter, according to PUK Media.
PUK MP Jamal Shukur, who attended the meeting, said they told the prime minister they have flown the Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk between 2003 and 2017 without a problem and will not lower it.
Abdul-Mahdi reportedly said in the meeting that he will not use force against the Kurds and would wait for the Federal Court to decide on the matter.
Shukur also said they informed the prime minister about the alleged mistreatment of Kurds in the city and problems with the acting governor who is accused of reviving Baathist-era Arabization policies.
Kirkuk is part of the multi-ethnic disputed areas defined under Article 140 of the constitution that stipulate their status should be resolved via a referendum to determine whether these areas will remain part of federal Iraq or be absorbed by the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.
Article 140 was supposed to have been enacted more than a decade ago, but successive governments have failed to do so.
When first deciding to raise the Kurdistan banner alongside the Iraqi one in Kirkuk for Newroz in March 2017, the Kurdish leadership in the city argued that both flags should be represented in the province until its status is resolved.
Abdul-Mahdi has also appealed to President Barham Salih to take a stance on the issue, as he is guardian of the constitution. Salih, who is a member of the PUK, returned to Baghdad on Thursday after an official visit in Qatar.