Iran Condemns Protest Outside Consulate in Erbil, Flag Removal

The Iranian consulate in Erbil has condemned protests outside its mission in the Kurdish capital on Friday, Kurdish media network Rudaw reports. The Iranian flag was taken down during the rally.

The protest occurred as Kurdish security officials, including the Peshmerga, accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps for being involved in the Iraqi-led military operations against the Kurdistan Region in the oil-rich Kirkuk province, and other disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad. A video shared on Kurdish social media shows a young man climbing over the wall of the Iranian consulate and taking down the Iranian flag to cheers by protesters.

The statement from the Iranian consulate stressed that a number of people who were under “political” influence targeted the consulate after office hours Friday evening.

“On Friday evening, when the Consulate General of the Islamic Republic of Iran was closed, some individuals who had political motives made an act of aggression against the Iranian mission in Erbil,” the Iranian Consulate General said in a statement on Sunday.

It added that the “noble people of Erbil” remember the sacrifices of two Iranian security forces who died defending Erbil while the ISIS group was at the gate of Erbil in 2014, according to Tasnim News Agency. The consulate general also urged the authorities in the Kurdistan Region to fulfill their duty to protect diplomatic missions there. Iran was one of the first countries that provided military support to the Kurdistan Region when ISIS militants attacked the Kurdish territories.

It said that the protection of Iran’s missions in the Kurdistan Region and Iranian nationals was the responsibility of the Kurdish authorities. It claimed that they have received messages of support from Kurdish officials and the citizens.

Kurds in Erbil, London, and Stockholm took to the streets pleading for help from the international community to shatter global silence over Iraqi incursions into the disputed areas and throw their support behind the Kurdistan Region. Angry protesters for a second day in a row gathered in front of the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil holding signs with slogans like “Yes, yes Kurdistan. No, no Iran.”

Hundreds of Kurds in the diaspora staged a gathering in front of the U.S. embassy in London, calling on the Iraqi army and Iranian backed-Hashd al-Shaabi forces to pull their units out of the city of Kirkuk.

“Kirkuk is our city and we will not give it to strangers,” they chanted. “Out, out Abadi. Out, out Iran.”

The protesters were particularly angry with the Iraqi forces and the Iranian-backed Shi’ite Hashd al-Shaabi using American weapons against the Kurdish Peshmerga, including on Friday when the two forces engaged in heavy fighting near Altun Kupri or Pirde, about 50 km south of the Kurdish capital.

Kurdish protesters in the Swedish capital Stockholm urged the international community to speak up and help stop the Iraqi army’s incursion into the Kurdistani territories, which were retaken from ISIS by the Peshmerga.

A large demonstration is expected to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday in Birmingham. Iran has two missions in Kurdistan, Erbil and Sulaimani. Iran, like Turkey, opposed the Kurdish independence referendum held on September 25 that saw 93 percent of the people voting to leave Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stated that Iraq, Iran and Turkey started to have joint meetings months before the referendum to take coordinated measures against Erbil.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of State reiterated its stance supporting a unified Iraq and calling on all parties to focus on the war with ISIS. Individual U.S. politicians including John McCain and Ted Cruz have, however, condemned reports of aggression against the Kurds, particularly alleged Iranian involvement using American weapons. The U.S. and the global anti-ISIS coalition have poured military equipment, arms, and funds into Iraq during the three-year long war against ISIS.