No Consensus on Kurdish Flag at Erbil Youth Conference
By BARZAN MUHAMMAD
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region -- At the International Kurdish Youth Conference in Erbil this month, youth groups could not reach a consensus on the issue of the Kurdish flag.
Some youth organizations closely tied to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) even boycotted parts of the conference.
The conference presented a number of proposals, among them the state of the Kurdish flag.
“The national Kurdish flag must be respected and raised above political party flags,” stated the proposal.
As the proposal was read out, it received warm applause from the majority of attendants, but youth representatives from the PKK, the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), the Democratic Unity of Kurdistan Party (PYD) and the Democratic Solution Party of Kurdistan (PCDK) opposed the motion.
Shimal Ulkem, coordinator of Ciwanen Kurdistan of the PKK, said, “We can decide on Kurdish youth issues, but not the whole Kurdish nation. A 23-year-old person cannot decide for all the Kurds in the world and choose a Kurdish flag.”
Ulkem also delivered a speech at the conference, suggesting that the issue of choosing a national flag be decided at a national convention, not at the youth conference.
“For this reason, we boycotted the conference,” said Ulkem.
Youth groups who walked out of the conference returned only after organizers agreed to adjourn the issue of the flag for a national convention in the future.
Umed Khoshnaw, secretary of the Union of Kurdistan Youth, said, “We did not choose the national flag of Kurdistan and call for respect to be shown to the flag. Let the national convention decide on the matter of the flag and select a flag that can be respected by all parts of Kurdistan.”
Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani spoke on the first day of the conference, saying a national convention would be held in the future. Now it seems the issue of a national flag will bring some arguments to that congress as well.
The current flag that is widely accepted by the Kurds was first raised in 1946 when Qazi Muhammad declared the Kurdistan Republic of Mahabad in western Iran. It is red, green and white with a sun in the middle. The PKK uses a different flag that is red, yellow and green.
Osman Ocalan, brother of jailed PKK leader Abdulla Ocalan and one-time leader of the PKK, expressed his surprise at the attitude of the youth groups, saying that the PKK leadership accepted the current flag of Iraqi Kurdistan in 2002.
Ocalan, who has since resigned from the PKK and lives in Koye city, said, “At that time, a delegation from the National Kurdish Congress visited us in the mountains and asked the PKK to accept the Kurdish flag as their own flag. The PKK were divided into two groups and one group did not accept this flag. But later, in the name of the PKK leadership council, the flag was accepted as the national flag of all Kurds.”
Ocalan believes youth members of the PKK are influenced by their ideological and ethnic tendencies.
“Now the leftist and the Alawite groups are influential within the PKK and they work together,” he said. “The support base of these two groups is among young people who have little nationalistic sentiment and can refuse this flag. This is not nice for the Kurdish nation.”