Maliki Challenges Kurds on Flag

"The present Iraqi flag should be hoisted on every inch of Iraqi soil until parliament makes a decision as laid down in the constitution," Maliki said in a statement issued by his office and cited by Reuters.

Maliki Challenges Kurds on Flag

The controversy spared by Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani's decision to fly down the Iraqi national flag showed on sign of abating on Sunday, September 3, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki setting himself on a collision course with Kurdish leaders and a defiant Barzani bashing their critics.

"The present Iraqi flag should be hoisted on every inch of Iraqi soil until parliament makes a decision as laid down in the constitution," Maliki said in a statement issued by his office and cited by Reuters.

The statement not only defended the national tricolor but implied that the Kurds' own flag was illegitimate.

Barzani, the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, has earlier this week banned the flying of the national flag over government buildings across Kurdistan.

"All government sites that used to raise the Baathist flag must lower it and hoist the flag of Kurdistan in its place," read his Decree No. 60.

The Kurdish red, white and green banner with a sun motif at the center is ubiquitous in the region, which is home to about 5 million of Iraq's 26 million people.

Some officials of a rival Kurdish party, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, did still fly Iraq's red, white and black tricolor on buildings, according to Reuters.

The rival administrations run by Barzani and Talabani in the cities of Arbil and Sulaimaniyah were united into a single autonomous regional government for Iraq's three northern provinces.

Before the merger, some official buildings in Sulaimaniyah province -- which was ruled by Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) -- would hoist the Iraqi flag along with the PUK party flag.

Barzani's administration in Arbil and Dohuk provinces has never flown the Iraqi flag.


Barzani said those who condemned his decision were "chauvinists, escaping from internal problems."

Barzani insisted that his decision was coordinated with not only Talabani but also Maliki himself, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"The decision to raise only the Kurdish flag instead of the present Iraqi flag in Kurdistan came after consultation with both President Talabani and the Iraqi prime minister. I did not take the decision myself," he told the Kurdish regional parliament in Arbil.

"I ask for a new flag for Iraq to be raised, according to Item 12 of the Iraqi constitution -- a new flag and a new national anthem which represents all the components of Iraq," he said.

In April 2004, the then interim government proposed a new national banner to replace the Iraqi flag, which is emblazoned with three green stars and the legend "God is greatest".

A new blue and white design, however, caused much controversy, amid complaints it was too close to the Israeli flag and was swiftly abandoned.

Barzani also launched a scathing attack on Iraqi Arab leaders over their opposition to his order.

"Those who condemn it are chauvinists, escaping from internal problems," he told the Kurdish regional parliament in the northern city of Arbil.

"They are losers. They are not rulers or statesmen. They can't run their region and they want to make Kurdistan just like their regions."

Secession Threat

A defiant Barzani also brandished the threat of secession.

"If at any moment we, the Kurdish people and parliament, consider that it is in our interests to declare independence, we will do so and we will fear no one," he the Kurdish parliament.

The symbolism of the flag dispute exposes an increasingly bitter rift between Arabs and Kurds, according to Reuters.

Barzani, one of the guerrilla leaders who wrenched the mountainous north from ousted president Saddam Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War, often refers to Kurdistan's right to secede if the US-backed project to establish a decentralized federal democracy fails.

Largely free of Baghdad's control for 15 years and spared the violence that followed the US invasion in 2003, Kurdistan has prospered.

Kurdish territorial designs on Iraq's northern oilfields around Kirkuk are a potential flashpoint for violence.

Yet they are mindful of their landlocked region's dependence on its neighbors and opposition to independence from their US ally as well as outright hostility from Turkey, Iran and Syria, which have restless Kurdish minorities of their own.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16