Wednesday, 15 August 2012, 05:34 GMT
Kurds hit back in row over the hoisting of the Kurdistan flag in Norwegian youth tournament

A Kurdistan football team player flies Kurdistan flag during a Norway Cup match. PRESS PHOTO/PRESS PHOTO

The Kurdish Globe
By Zakariya Muhammed

Raising the Kurdistan flag is not against the constitution - Kurdistan Football Federation President

In a press conference held at the facility of the Kurdistan Football Federation (KFF) in Erbil on August 8th, the KFF President Safeen Kanaby responded to recent comments from the Iraqi Youths and Sports minister, Jassim Muhammad Jaafar, on raising the flag of Kurdistan in the opening ceremony of the Norway Cup.

The Norway Cup is one of the biggest international youth soccer tournaments in Europe and the world. 56 nations were fully represented at this year's Norway Cup and more than 1400 international youth football teams traveled from many different countries to participate in this well-organized international youth soccer tournament, located in the capital of Norway, Oslo.

Iraq participated in this year's Cup with two teams for the first time; one team was from Baghdad while the other team was from Kurdistan. Kurdistan's junior team left the tournament in round 16.

"I believe he has lost his mind," said Kanaby referring to minster Jaafar who described the raising of the Kurdistan flag alongside the Iraqi flag in the opening ceremony of the Norway Cup as a violation of the Iraqi constitution.

"Raising the Kurdistan flag isn't against the Iraqi constitution at all. We, as Kurds, are the only side who abide by constitutional articles in Iraq."

Kanaby continued "I wonder if we have violated the constitution or the Iraqi government has. I wonder why the Iraqi government doesn't implement article 140 if they are serious about the implementation of all the articles of the constitution in order to end all Iraqi problems."

Article 140 is concerned with disputed territories that were Arabized during Baath Party rule in Iraq. Most of these regions were previously inhabited by non-Arab minorities, most notably Kurds, and where later Arabized by transferring and settling Arab tribes in those areas to tip the ethnic balance in these regions.

Kanaby also criticized the Iraqi embassy staff members in Norway for receiving the Baghdad football team but ignoring the Kurdistan team in Norway.

"I felt really sad when I realized that the Baghdad team was visited by the Iraqi embassy in Norway but the Kurdistan team was never visited. Is that what the constitution says? They accuse us for separating Kurdistan from Iraq but here is their attitude toward us. I believe they proved they always want to separate themselves from Kurds," noted Kanaby.

According to Kanaby, KFF received an official invitation letter from the Norwegian sports officials to send a junior team in Kurdistan to take part in the Norway Cup.

Kanaby said the tournament organizers and the Norwegian Foreign Affairs ministry had no objection to the raising of the Kurdish flag in the Cup's opening ceremony.

"All the Kurdish people from Norway and I, were mad once realizing that some people at the Iraqi Embassy in Norway tried to make obstacles on the way of hoisting the Kurdistan flag. Fortunately we were eventually able to entertain our fans by raising our flag along with the flags of other nations," he divulged.

As a protest against the Iraqi embassy's attempts to prevent the Kurdish flag from being raised, many Kurdish people who have been living in Norway for a long time, tried to attack the Iraqi embassy's facility. But the KFF President and the Kurdistan team members played a significant role in calming down the situation and didn't let that happen.

"Our people don't show concession over their national issues. The Kurdish flag is sacred and regarded as the symbol of Kurdistan and its people. If we didn't calm down the situation, the Kurdish residents in Norway would have set fire to the Iraqi embassy building," he explained.

No one knows so far if the mister's speeches represent the whole Iraqi government or if it is only his personal opinion. Kanaby doesn't want to accuse all the Iraqi sports officials by virtue of the minister's statement and hopes the Iraqi Olympic Committee and the Iraqi Football Association will have their say over this issue.

Some people think the minister's sayings were more political and aimed at hurting Kurdish people's feelings.

When questioned if the official speaker of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) should also respond to Jaafar's speeches, Kanaby replied "I felt that I am in a position to give my response to Jaafar. But I am not sure if the Kurdish government speaker feels the same."

Kanaby asks the media to find out why the Kurdish government officials and Kurdistan Olympic Committee have so far not reacted against Jaafar's statements.