Iraq parliament votes to remove Kurdish flag in Kirkuk

Iraq parliament votes to remove Kurdish flag in Kirkuk
The raising of the Kurdish flag over official buildings in Kirkuk has raised concern in Baghdad the move could mark a prelude to attempts to annex Kirkuk to the KRG
2 min read
01 April, 2017
Kirkuk is a multi-ethnic province 280 kilometres north of Baghdad [AFP]

Iraq's parliament on Saturday voted to revoke a decision by Kirkuk’s provincial council to raise the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) flag over state buildings in the northern Iraqi city.

186 members of the 328-seat parliament attended the vote, with a majority vote calling for only the Iraqi flag to be displayed on Kirkuk's buildings. 

According to reports in Turkish state-affiliated news agency Anadolu, Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the session in protest before the vote took place.

On Tuesday, the Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC) voted in favour of a motion to hoist the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) flag on public buildings in the province.

However, that vote was vetoed by most Arab and Turkmen members of the KPC.

Speaking to The New Arab on Tuesday, Turkmen MP Hassan Toran said that his bloc would challenge the move in the federal court, stating that it did not fall within the powers of the KPC. 

Ali Mahdi, head of the Turkmen Front within the KPC, struck a similar note, describing the decision to raise the KRG flag as unconstitutional.

"We are concerned by the decision of Kirkuk Provincial Council," said Mahdi in comment to Kurdish TV station NRT.

"We are not against the Kurds but we are against any decision which is against the constitution."

Turkmen residents of Kirkuk also took to the streets on Wednesday in protest at the decision, with Turkish politicians additionally expressing objection to the move made by the KPC. 

However, Kurdish news agency Rudaw has reported that Kurdish members of the KPC are determined to embark on a project aimed at merging Kirkuk with the Kurdistan region's administration. 

"We have collected 22 signatures to renew that demand and present it to the concerned parties in the Kurdistan Region so that they act on it," Ibrahim Khalil, a Kurdish member of the Council told Rudaw on Friday. "It is our rightful and constitutional right."

Kurdistan Union Party leader Jalal Talabani, is said to approve of the move. Kurdish Iraqi politicians have defended the decision to raise the Kurdish flag in Kirkuk, citing the role played by Kurdish forces in repelling the Islamic State group in Kirkuk province.

Kirkuk is a multi-ethnic province 280 kilometres north of Baghdad designated since 2003 as "disputed". 

During the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, that lead to the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Kurdish forces took control of Kirkuk. They later agreed to relinquish control of the key oil centre, however, many Kurds remained in the city, making it their home.