Dozens of humanitarian organizations urge Iraqi PM to end flight ban in Kurdistan

Erbil International Airport © Jeffrey Beall

Dozens of humanitarian organizations on Wednesday sent a request to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to lift the international flight ban on airports in the Kurdistan Region.

Seventy-seven aid organizations signed a statement addressed to the Government of Iraq, and to Prime Minister Abadi.

The statement said Iraqi and Kurdish humanitarian organizations were calling on the Iraqi government to lift the flight ban on airports in Kurdistan and allow citizens to travel to other countries.

“The Kurdistan Region announced its commitment to the provisions of the Iraqi Constitution, and the continuation of the embargo adversely affects our humanitarian activities in providing service to thousands of displaced persons and refugees in Kurdistan,” the letter read.

Baghdad imposed collective punitive sanctions on Kurdistan following the Sep. 25 independence referendum which saw nearly 93 percent vote for secession from Iraq.

The sanctions included an international flight ban on the Region’s two airports in Erbil and Sulaimani, as well as the use of military force to take over disputed territories.

The humanitarian organizations called on Abadi “to take appropriate measures to serve the interests of Iraqi citizens by allowing travel from airports in Kurdistan to countries abroad,” adding it was “an urgent measure.”

“The end of the flight ban also reinforces the confidence between the conflicting sides [Erbil and Baghdad], and opens the way for subsequent steps in dialogue and peaceful coexistence in the country,” the statement concluded.

Since the rise of the Islamic State (IS) in 2014, the Kurdistan Region has hosted nearly 1.8 million displaced persons and refugees from Iraq and Syria, many of whom rely on humanitarian aid to come through airports.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has repeatedly called on Baghdad to lift the “collective punishment” against the population as it has impacted thousands of innocent people.

The international flight ban has also reduced the arrival of businesspersons and has negatively affected industries, including hotels, financial services, transportation, and real estate.

Source: Kurdistan24

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