Kurdish flag sparks controversy at former Iraqi president’s funeral

The coffin of former Iraqi president Jalal Talabani is covered with a Kurdish flag at Sulaimaniya Airport, Iraq, on October 6, 2017. (REUTERS/Ako Rasheed)
Updated 06 October 2017
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Kurdish flag sparks controversy at former Iraqi president’s funeral

IRBIL, Iraq: Jalal Talabani, the former Kurdish leader and Iraq’s first president under its postwar Constitution, who died in Germany on Tuesday aged 83, was laid to rest in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya on Friday.
Iraqi officials reportedly said that Talabani's body should have been transported to Baghdad first for an official funeral before sending the coffin to Sulaimaniya, but Talabani's family refused to allow his body to be taken to the Iraqi capital.
Special dispensation was required to allow the flight carrying Talabani’s body to land in Sulaimaniya, as the Iraqi government
imposed a ban on all international flights to Kurdistan following last week’s referendum in which people in northern Iraq voted in favor of Kurdish independence.
While the national anthems of both Iraq and Kurdistan were played at Talabani’s funeral, his coffin was draped in the Kurdish flag, which Reuters reported “sparked a wave of protests on media close to Shi’ite political groups.” Reuters added that Al-Etejah TV stopped its broadcast of the ceremony “because the coffin was not draped by the Iraqi flag.”
Talabani was a longtime advocate of Kurdish self-determination, and held the office of Iraqi president from 2005, following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, until 2014.
Leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan — President Masoud Barzani and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani – attended the funeral, alongside Iraqi
President Fuad Masum, interior minister Qasim al-Araji, and the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Salim Al-Jabouri.
The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, was the most senior foreign official present at the ceremony.


Yemen army offers safe routes for Hodeidah civilians

Updated 17 June 2018
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Yemen army offers safe routes for Hodeidah civilians

  • Houthi militants willing to put down their weapons would also be given safe passage, the army said.
  • The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Sunday that nearly 5,000 families have been displaced from Hodeidah province this month.

JEDDAH: The Yemeni army said on Sunday it was ready to open safe corridors for civilians who want to leave Hodeidah.

Houthi militants willing to put down their weapons would also be given safe passage, the army said.

Fighting continued to rage around Yemen’s largest port as forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition pushed their offensive to recapture the city. Coalition jets bombed the airport as pro-government forces moved closer to dislodging the militants.

The UAE, a main coalition partner, said the operation was designed to help the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to persuade the Houthis to withdraw.

“We are at a turning point, because as long as the Houthis hold Hodeidah, they will continue to impede the political process,” Anwar Gargash, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, said on Twitter. “We firmly believe that the liberation of Hodeidah will pull the Houthis back to the negotiating table.”

The people of Hodeidah did not want to be governed by “Iranian backed religious extremists,” he said. “We will continue to focus on our two main goals: To protect the flow of humanitarian aid and to protect civilians.”

The Yemeni military said about 500 Houthis had been killed in the battle for Hodeidah, which is a crucial aid supply line, but also a conduit for supplies of Iranian arms to the militants. 

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Sunday that nearly 5,000 families have been displaced from Hodeidah province this month.

Yemeni government spokesperson Rajeh Badi told Arab News the Houthi militias understand only the language of force.

He said they were not optimistic about the outcome of talks between Griffiths and the Houthi leaders.

“Unless they get the green light from their leaders in Iran they will never give up their weapons or surrender in peace and spare the innocent citizens in Hodeidah and the rest of the Yemeni territories under their control their atrocities,” Badi said.