Burning of flags ‘not civilized way’ to express political differences: SDF commander

File – Commander of Syrian Democratic Forces Mazloum Abdi. (AFP)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) General Commander Mazloum Abdi said on Sunday the burning of flags is not a “civilized way” to express political differences, after Hashid al-Shaabi supporters burned the Kurdistan flag.

Dozens of Hashid al-Shaabi supporters stormed and set fire to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) fifth branch office and burned the Kurdistan flag in Baghdad on Saturday.

The SDF commander said hundreds of thousands of Kurds were “martyred” in the Kurdistan Region to raise their flag and liberate their land from dictatorship and terrorism, and to establish peace.

“The burning of flags, symbols and headquarters is not a civilized way to express political differences,” Abdi said in a tweet early on Sunday.

“The sanctities and symbols of peoples must be protected, and violators of the principle of coexistence must be held accountable for,” he added.

The attack on the KDP office came after member of KDP Politburo and former Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said in an interview with Al-Hurra television that the central government needed to “clean up the Green Zone from the presence of Hashid militias”.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi condemned the burning of KDP office and ordered an investigation into the attack during an emergency meeting of Ministerial Council for National Security on Saturday.

“There is no return to sectarian rivalry or an Iraqi against another for political purposes. We passed that hurdle together, and we will not go back,” Kadhimi tweeted.

Senior Kurdish officials including Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Deputy Premier Qubad Talabani and leaders of political parties in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region also denounced the burning of Kurdistan flag and the KDP office.

The United States urged all parties to behave responsibly during the critical period in which Iraq is dealing with a pandemic, an economic crisis and the continued threat of Islamic State.

“The United States strongly condemns the attack on the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s branch office in Baghdad by Iran-backed elements of the Popular Mobilization Forces,’ Ortagus said in a statement.

“The ability to speak freely and critically is a vital component of any democracy, and political parties should be able to engage in robust debate without threat from militias and thugs,” she added.

“The destabilizing activities of Iran-backed militias operating outside of Government of Iraq control are inflaming ethnic and sectarian tensions and undermining democracy.”

UNAMI also expressed “grave concern” about the burning of Kurdistan flag and KDP headquarters in Baghdad.

“Acts of violence and intimidation (never a solution to disagreement!) are to be condemned,” UNAMI said in a tweet late on Saturday. “Iraq needs unity, stability and dialogue to tackle its many problems.”

EU delegation to Iraqi also said violence “cannot be a means of expression” in response to the attack on KDP office.

On Saturday, the Popular Mobilization Forces said it rejected the use of violence and sabotage, calling on its supporters to preserve the “prestige of the state, societal peace and respect the security forces in this sensitive circumstance”.

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