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Iraqi parliament bans hoisting of Kurdish flags in Kirkuk

This file photo shows a view of the Iraqi parliament.

The Iraqi parliament has voted to ban the hoisting of Kurdish flags over government buildings in the northern city of Kirkuk.

The lawmakers on Saturday passed a bill to prohibit the hoisting of the flag of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in Kirkuk days after the Kirkuk Provincial Council decided to raise the regional flag next to the Iraqi national flag in front of some buildings.

The controversial move was swiftly met with ire in Baghdad as Kirkuk is not part of the semi-autonomous region.

Turkey, Iraq’s northern neighbor which has its own issues with Kurds and is in the midst of a crackdown on Kurdish militants, also condemned the flag hoisting.

A day after the council gave the go-ahead, Ankara said that the decision would not help Iraq’s future stability, especially at a time when Baghdad was seeking unity in the fight against Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

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“We don’t approve of the voting held by the regional administration,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with the state-run TRT Haber television news network in Ankara on Wednesday.

Kirkuk’s provincial governor, Najim al-Din Karim, (C-R) raises the Iraqi flag next to the Kurdish flag over a government building in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on March 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

On March 28, Arabs and Turkmens residing in Kirkuk protested against the move, describing it as unconstitutional.

Kurds and other officials rejected the claim, saying the Iraqi constitution had not explicitly banned the flag hoisting. They also argued that the move was normal and that Kurdistan flags had already been hoisted in Turkish cities of Istanbul and Ankara. They also justified the move as a response to demands by the majority of Kurds living in the city.

The Saturday bill also banned the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) from seeking any direct benefit from the sale of oil in Kirkuk, noting that the income from Kirkuk's oil belonged to all Iraqis and that it should be equally distributed among the KRG and other Iraqi provinces.  

Kurdish officials have been at odds with Baghdad over the share of oil income from Kirkuk as part of the crude produced in the area passes through the pipelines operated by the Kurds.

Kurdish members of the Iraqi parliament left the session in protest to the ratification of the bill. 

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