A SURVIVOR of a massacre put Portsmouth in the history books by raising the Kurdish flag for the first time ever in a UK city.
Portsmouth resident Kamaran Nawrooz who lived through the 1988 Halabja chemical attack in Iraq said he was 'honoured' to be a part of the ceremony that welcomed in the Kurdish New Year - also known as Newroz.
The 41-year-old said: 'This is a great honour. We have been hoping the council will let us do this for a while.
'I was a survivor of the Halabja genocide. I lost my whole family; my four brothers, my sister and my mother. Out of 35 people in the shelter I was the only survivor. It's so important that we remember this and our background.'
The flag was raised alongside the union flag outside the city civic offices in Guildhall Square today (March 21) to applause from members of the 3,000 strong Portsmouth Kurdish community in the city as well as councillors and passers-by.
Karwan Tahir, from the Kurdish Regional Government, travelled down from London for the event. 'This is a unique day,' he said.
'Not only is it Kurdish New Year but we are raising our flag in front of the city council. This means a lot to the Kurdish community in Portsmouth and in the UK.
'We are thankful to the Lord Mayor for hosting this and also to the population of Portsmouth who have welcomed us into their city. Portsmouth is such a diverse community.
Mr Tahir hoped the celebration would pave the way for similar events in other UK cities. 'This is the first time ever that we have raised our flag anywhere in the UK so it means a lot,' he said.
'Hopefully other cities will follow and by doing this we will be able to embrace their communities even more.'
Portsmouth City Council's deputy leader, Councillor Steve Pitt, spoke about the importance of community. He said: 'Community is really important to everyone regardless of where we come from. That feeling of belonging is something that is close to all our hearts. It is great to see you all here today outside our civic offices.
'Thank you for your valuable contributions to our city.'
Revan Akrawi, a member of the select committee for Kurds in Portsmouth, added: 'This has never happened before. It will be written down in the history books of the Kurdish community in Portsmouth.'
Traditional Kurdish dancing followed the flag raising.
The flag will fly outside the civic offices for 24 hours after the ceremony.