People celebrated Kurdistan Flag Day on Monday with a special enthusiasm in Kirkuk following a year of restrictions on the flag and anthem and forlornness over the federal takeover of the disputed city.
Bless Elementary School in Kirkuk's Azadi (Freedom) district and many Kurdish schools commemorated the day and sang Kurdistan’s national anthem.
"We as the citizens of Kurdistan today commemorated the day of Kurdistan's flag, honoring it in all the schools in dear Kirkuk," said Parwin Fatih, the head of Kurdish education in Kirkuk.
They will continue hoisting the flag, no matter what, calling on the leaders Kurdistan to unite if they "love" the people of Kirkuk.
"We had a very good feeling. We would like for our city's situation to become better, for us to do the things we like. It was a good day. We hoisted a beautiful flag," said a female student who was wearing a Peshmerga uniform bearing the flag of Kurdistan.
Others wore traditional Kurdish dresses.
"We had a very good feeling, because it was flag day. Me and two friends commemorated the flag day," said another Kurdish girl.
In March 2017, the Kirkuk Provincial Council made a decree to hoist Kurdistan's flag on all public buildings, recognizing it as official and signed by then Governor Najmaldin Karim. The Flag of Iraq was also displayed.
"I love my flag a lot. I was very happy to hoist our flag today. I hope it always flies high," said another pupil.
Since the federal takeover of Kirkuk in October 2017, Iraqi forces have confiscated Kurdistan flags, prohibiting them from being hoisted publicly.
Kirkuk is constitutionally a disputed area. It is claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil.
The Kurdistan Communist Party was the first Kurdistani party to hoist the flag publicly on Monday, defying the Iraqi ban.
Hawre Sheikh Sidiq, head of Kirkuk's Committee of the Kurdistan Communist Party, said they have done nothing illegal, and it would be "shameful" if the Iraqi government lowers it.
"Our existence goes hand-in-hand with the flag. We exist together," he added.
The flag was promptly by Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Services (ICTS).
On November 11, 1999, Kurdistan's parliament passed the Kurdistan Flag Act. On June 19, 2014, they passed Law No. 48 to designate December 17 as Kurdistan Flag Day.
"Between the years 1919 to 1920, my grandfather Ameen Aali had the idea that Kurds needed to have their flag. Gradually, the flag came to be, in 1927. This is the flag. This is the flag of Xoybun," explained Sinam Khan, a granddaughter of Ameen Aali.
Ihsan Nouri Pasha hoisted the flag in his revolution in Agiri.
"We can't be a country without a flag," she added.
In Erbil, Kurdistan's parliament hosted mothers of Peshmerga martyrs. KRG's Council of Ministers also commemorated the day.
"On Kurdistan Flag Day, on behalf of the Kurdistan Regional Government's Council of Ministers, extend war congratulations to the brave Peshmerga, the venerable families of the martyrs, you and the people of Kurdistan," Karim Sinjari, KRG's Minister of Interior, said in a speech.
A "bright future" is awaiting Kurdistan, he added, sending salutations to the different components of Kurdistan.
Alaya Rengin, or “The Colorful Flag” with a sun shining into bands of red, white and green was first used by Kurds in Turkey by the Republic of Ararat, led by the Xoybuns in their 1920s rebellion.
It changed slightly with the birth of the short-lived Kurdish Republic of Mahabad when leader Qazi Mohammed hoisted the flag on January 22, 1946 at Chawrchira Arena in Mahabad, now in Iran.
In the late 20th century, the flag was adopted by the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kurdistan Region of Iraq. It was standardized through the work of Kurdish scholar Mehrdad MR Izady and fellow intellectuals.
The Flag of Kurdistan is unique in the Middle East with its 21-point sunburst centered into equal bands of red, white, and green.