Only the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan flag can been seen flying over its committee office in the Imam Qassim neighborhood of Kirkuk on January 11, 2019. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — A Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) official confirmed that it has lowered the Flag of Kurdistan at some of its offices on Friday ahead of a noon deadline previously imposed by an Iraqi counter-terror unit.
"The Kurdistan flag has been taken down on committee offices," said Fakhraddin Mohammed, the media officer for PUK's main office in Kirkuk.
It has not been reported that the flag has been removed from the party's headquarters in the city.
"Until the court rules about the issue, the Kurdistan flag will only be raised over the politburo and the main office, but it will be lowered over PUK committee offices," he explained.
Mohammed added that the Iraqi government has filed a lawsuit against the PUK for raising the flag in Kirkuk and the PUK has reciprocated.
The PUK’s main office in Kirkuk later released a statement to explain their decision.
"We as the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan consider maintaining social peace, keeping balance between components and stability as our principal duty. Therefore the decision [to raise Kurdistan’s flag] only applies to the main office and politburo for the moment because we have offices in most parts of Kirkuk such as neighborhoods, regions, districts and sub-districts."
The statement added that they will not raise the flag over these offices in order to "prevent reactions and concerns in those areas populated by different religious and ethnic groups."
Kurds who raise the flag "out of love for the flag" do not represent the decision by PUK, explained the party.
"We assure everyone that we will not accept any solution other than a court decree," the PUK added.
The move comes after Iraqi Commander Abdulwahab al-Saadi warned the party
to remove the flag while arriving in the city on Thursday.
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.
It has been a flashpoint where tensions between the central and regional governments ended in a bloody federal takeover in October 2017.
The incursion followed Kirkuk participating in the Kurdistan Region's independence referendum in the previous month.
The PUK is the largest party in Kirkuk, having won six of 13 seats in last year's parliamentary election. The province has long been a party stronghold.
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 at governmental buildings until its status is resolved.
PUK politicians have argued that the Kurdistan flag flew alongside the party and Iraqi flags from 2003-2017 without a problem.
Update: 2:45 p.m.