Kurdish flag to fly above Kirkuk despite Iraq ban
Kurdish authorities in Iraq said they will take no notice of a Baghdad parliamentary decree banning the raising of the Kurdish flag over state buildings in a city controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG].
The KRG will disregard a parliamentary vote on Saturday that revoked a decision this week by Kirkuk's provincial council to raise the Kurdish regional flag - a move that has escalated tensions with Baghdad.
"The Kurds reject this decision. The flag of Kurdistan will remain flapping over Kirkuk and not be taken down," Kurdish lawmaker Sarhan Ahmad told The New Arab on Sunday.
"After this vote, Kurdish members of parliament have decided to boycott parliamentary sessions," Ahmad said.
He stressed that the decision to raise the Kurdish flag was "legal and constitutional" and that it was not within parliament's power to vote on the provincial council's decision.
An unnamed source in the KRG told Al Jazeera that Kurdish authorities were "unconcerned" by the vote in parliament and that they would ignore the decision.
"Raising the Kurdish flag has become a reality that Baghdad is going to have to learn to live with," the source said.
Kirkuk is home to various religious and ethnic communities, some of whom - notably Arabs and Turkmen - oppose the province moving to permanent Kurdish control.
Speaking to The New Arab, Turkmen lawmaker Arshad al-Salihi said that the decision to raise the KRG flag was "unconstitutional".
"Kirkuk's governor has done this because he wants to distract the Kurdish public and cover up an ongoing conflict between Kurdish political parties over oil revenues," Salihi said.
Kirkuk is at the centre of a long-running dispute over northern territory between Kurdish authorities, who want to incorporate the land into their autonomous region, and the federal government in Baghdad.
Turkey on Wednesday voiced its opposition to the decision to fly the Kurdish flag, warning against "unilateral steps".
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said it was "not the right thing to do."