First introduced by the Khoyboun Movement, the national Kurdish flag is a symbol of the Kurdish identity everywhere in the world. It can be seen in almost every government institution and department in Kurdistan Region.
Every year, the Kurds celebrate the Kurdistan Flag Day on December 17 as recognized by the Kurdistan Region Parliament. On this day, the people of Kurdistan celebrate it by wearing their Kurdish clothes, playing the national anthem, dancing, and flying their flag high among other activities.
Not only that, the Kurdish flag is raised every week at schools, while Kurdistan’s national anthem is sung, to teach the new generation how many souls have been sacrificed in the pursuit of freedom.
Also, during every burial of the fallen Peshmerga soldiers, or when the remnants of the victims of Anfal massacres are repatriated, the coffins are always covered with the Kurdistan flag to let everyone know how many lives were sacrificed for the land of Kurds.
The Long History
The history of the first appearance of the national Kurdistan flag dates back to 1927, when Khoyboun Movement leaders designed the flag to show that there is indeed a nation called the Kurds. Khoyboun was formed by joining four Kurdish movements in 1927 in Bihamdun, Lebanon, and they were a dispensable part in any effort to free Kurdistan and reunite its four parts.
On January 28, 1927, The Ararat Revolution (Agiri Dagh Revolution) was declared by hoisting the Kurdistan flag on top of Agiri Dagh mountain to show resistance against the oppression of the Turks. The Kurdistan flag was an indication of the Kurdish fighters’ arrival to the Turkish troops who were trying to dominate the whole Kurdish nation.
The flag became a symbol of hope for those who dreamt of Kurdistan’s freedom in Ararat Revolution from 1927 till 1931. Unfortunately, the Ararat Republic was defeated by the Turkish troops in September 1931, but not before the Turkish forces took a serious blow by the Kurdish forces.
However, this was definitely not the last time Kurdistan’s enemies saw the Kurdistan flag fluttering high in the sky. Once again, the flag witnessed the birth of Kurdistan Republic in Mahabad, Iranian Kurdistan, commonly known as Rojhalat. The launch coincided with the arrival of Mustafa Barzani, the leader of Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan, with several thousand fighters and their families to Iran following the defeat of their uprising in Iraq.
The Kurdistan Republic used the same flag as the Ararat Republic, with some alterations, to show the unity of Kurds everywhere and in every part of Kurdistan. In a ceremony, the Kurdish leaders took an oath by the Quran, Kurdistan’s map, and Kurdistan’s flag to protect Kurdistan to the bitter end.
Despite all the battles and resistance, the Kurdistan Republic saw its end in December 15, 1946. The flag was yet again stained with the blood of its protectors on March 31, 1947 when Qazi Muhammad, the president of the Kurdistan Republic, was executed with other leaders of the republic in the center of Mahabad, the same place where the republic was declared.
July 4, 1992 symbolizes the day that the Kurdistan Region came to existence, and the formation of its own government. Kurdistan Regions’ government adopted the 21-ray sunburst design flag of Dr. Mehrdad Izady and Dr. Bijhan Eliasi. To date, the same sunburst design remains the National Flag of Kurdistan Region, and the Kurds everywhere in the world recognize it as their nation’s identity.
Modifications the Flag Went Through
Throughout the past century, Kurdistan’s flag has seen many modifications. The flag used during the Ararat Revolution consisted of four colors. The upper stripe was red, the middle one white, and the lower one green. In the middle was a shining sun with sixty rays.
Ararat Republic flag, designed by Khoyboun leaders in 1927. It is considered as the first model of the national Kurdish flag that exists today.
The same design and colors were adopted by the Kurdistan Republic in Mahabad, but the sun disk and rays were minimized, and a symbol representing wheat ears surrounding the sun was drawn. Behind the sun was a mountain and a pen.
The flag selected by the Kurdistan Republic in Mahabad, Iran as the its official flag in 1946.
The flag that KRG set as the national flag in 1992 also consisted of four colors. The design was more like the Ararat Revolution’s flag rather than Kurdistan Republic’s with the upper stripe being red, the middle one white, and the last stripe being green. The difference between the Ararat and the KRG flag is in the sun in its middle. The sun that occupies the middle of KRG flag consists of twenty-one thick rays that caries deeper meaning.
The National Kurdistan Flag selected by KRG parliament. It is still used as the Kurdish flag in KRG and around the world.
Interpretation of the Flag
Every nation’s flag is designed with the purpose of showing the nation’s history, struggles, identity, and vision, and Kurdistan’s flag is no exception.
The colors of the flag carry several meanings rooted deep in the history, culture, and beliefs of the Kurdish society. The color red is a symbol for the blood of the martyrs spilled in the quest for freedom and dignity. The color green signifies the landscapes of Kurdistan and shows the lands liveliness and prosperity.
In the middle is the color white, that stands for the peace and equality, that the Kurds have fought their whole life to achieve but been denied of.
But the most significant part of the Kurdish flag is its sun emblem in the exact middle of the flag. The sun has twenty-one rays, equal in size and shape, with an odd ray and the top and two even rays at the bottom. The number of rays has not been chosen haphazardly, but deliberately. The number stands for rebirth in Yazdanism, an ancient and native Kurdish religion.
A source of life and light of the people is what the color yellow conveys. The sun rays also indicate March 21, the first day of Nawroz, the first day of the Kurdish New Year and a day of celebrating the conquering of the oppressor.
Recognition of the Flag
It is clearly stated in the Iraqi Constitution, article number 38, that “freedom of expression using all means of expression” is a right reserved for the components of Iraq; and the Kurdish flag is a means of expressing and showing the existence of the Kurdish nation.
Article 120 states that “each region shall adopt a constitution of its own that defines the structure of powers of the region, its authorities, and the mechanisms for exercising such authorities….”; and KRG has legally chosen the national Kurdish flag since its establishment.
Despite its recognition by the Iraqi constitution and the government of Kurdistan Region, having or displaying the Kurdish flag is, to a certain degree, forbidden in some countries like Turkey and Iran where large populations of Kurds live and sympathies with their people in the Kurdistan Region. This is due to the long and painful history that the Kurds share with these two countries.
Many cases have been reported in both Turkey and Iran where people were physically injured, and even arrested, for carrying the Kurdistan flag.
Not only abroad, but even in Iraq sometimes hoisting the Kurdistan flag has been the reason of controversy. In 2017, the Kurdish flag was raised over Kirkuk Citadel, and this caused yet another conflict for the disputed city where Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens live together.
However, in many countries, including the world powers, the Kurdish flag is handled with the utmost respect. When visiting foreign countries, top Kurdish officials are welcomed with the Kurdistan flag hoisted alongside Iraq’s.