File photo shows the Kurdish flag raised in the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk at a Newroz event in Kirkuk on March 20, 2017. File photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish parties have agreed to mark Kurdish New Year and the anniversary of the 1991 uprising against the Baathist regime with a special flag ceremony in the disputed city of Kirkuk on March 21.
The raising of the Kurdish flag and other expressions of Kurdish political culture have been restricted in Kirkuk since the Peshmerga was forced to withdraw from the city in October 2017 in the face of an Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi offensive.
To avoid confrontation, events marking Newroz and the uprising will be held in coordination with security forces, the Kurdish parties said.
“Newroz and the Kirkuk uprising [anniversary] are approaching. We want to once again tell the people of Kirkuk that we will celebrate the memorial day with unity on Kirkuk citadel. We will all revive the memorial day with the Kurdistan flag,” Ibrahim Khalil, head of Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) in Kirkuk, told a press conference following a meeting of several Kurdish parties in the city.
The meeting took place at the KIU office in Kirkuk. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and New Generation did not attend.
The KDP has not reopened its Kirkuk office, which has reportedly been turned into a Hashd al-Shaabi military base, since the city fell to Hashd and the Iraqi Army in October 2017.
The KDP has said it will only return to the city when the situation is “normalized”. The party has reportedly reached a deal
with the Iraqi government to return to the city, but this is yet to be implemented.
New Generation has not clarified why it did not attend the meeting.
Kurdish new year on March 21 coincides with the anniversary of the 1991 uprising of Kirkuk people against Saddam Hussein’s regime after many Kurdish cities of what is now the Kurdistan Region rose up against the regime and expelled its forces.
Kurds celebrated the anniversary and Newroz last year under a raft of restrictions.
Rawand Mahmoud, deputy head of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) office in Kirkuk, told reporters during the presser they will celebrate in coordination with Iraqi security forces.
“Wherever you live, even in Germany, you have to inform the security forces of the city to avoid troubles, but we do not have any obstacles and the security forces are ready join us in the celebration,” Mahmoud said.