Iraqi national security arrests two for desecrating flag in Kirkuk

Iraqi national security arrests two for desecrating flag in Kirkuk
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Flag-burning incident adds to tensions as sectarian clashes rise in the city.

On Thursday, Iraq's National Security Service announced the arrest of two people in Kirkuk for allegedly desecrating the Iraqi flag, which sparked considerable uproar on social media platforms.

Rudaw reported, citing a National Security Facebook statement, that the two were taken into custody after appearing in a controversial video showing the burning of the Iraqi flag. Although social media videos suggest the individuals spoke in Kurdish and were from the predominantly Kurdish Shorja neighborhood, Rudaw could not independently verify the authenticity of the videos, nor had it seen any footage depicting the burning of the flag.

While condemning the act as disrupting "social peace," Iraqi national security officials stressed their commitment to identifying and arresting the remaining individuals seen in the video. They added that the arrested duo would face legal proceedings.

In a twist to the narrative, Arshad Salihi, a respected nationalist MP from the Iraqi Turkmen Front, refuted claims that the perpetrators were local Kurds. Instead, in a statement released on Thursday, he claimed that the instigators of the flag desecration were foreign elements from various nations.

Under Iraqi law, public desecration of the Iraqi flag is a serious offense. Article 202 of the Iraqi Penal Code prescribes a punishment ranging from detention to imprisonment for up to ten years.

The flag desecration incident is emblematic of heightened sectarian tensions in the region. Last week, protesters, mostly members and supporters of the Iran-aligned Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, started a significant highway blockade. They were protesting Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani's rumored decision to reinstate the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to its former regional offices.

In retaliation, Kurdish residents of Kirkuk rallied on Saturday, voicing support for the KDP's comeback and accusing Arab communities of suppressing their voices. Their protest culminated in roadblocks and arson attacks on several streets.

Tensions reached a boiling point when Iraqi forces resorted to using live ammunition following confrontations between Arab, Turkmen, and Kurdish protesters. This violent crackdown resulted in the tragic deaths of at least four Kurdish demonstrators, with another 15 injured.