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Under Pressure from Iraq, Kurds Fire Their Jewish Representative

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has fired its first official Jewish Representative, Sherzad Omar Mamsani, reportedly under pressure from the central government in Baghdad.

The Times of Israel reported on Thursday that the head of the KRG’s Ministry for Endowment and Religious Affairs, Mariwan Nasqshbandy, suggested that the decision to let Mamsani go was “an effort by the Kurds to reconcile with Baghdad following shaky relations after an independence referendum in September of last year.”

When Israeli flags were waved at Kurdish independence rallies during the referendum campaign, Mamsani came under intense pressure from the government in Baghdad, and their patrons in Iran, for encouraging support for the Jewish State. The incidents led to the Iraqi parliament officially prohibiting the public display of the Israeli flag.

Mamsani has traveled to Israel multiple times and met with high-ranking Israeli religious and political figures in an attempt to strengthen ties between the KRG and Israel, a development discouraged by the head of the Ministry for Endowment and Religious Affairs.

“He should not have done that, since the Kurdistan government does not have any official relations with Israel,” said Naqshbandy. “I often told Sherzad that he should confine his loyalties to his Jewish people and to Kurdistan.”

He continued: “Now is not the time to focus on Israel’s relationship to the Kurdistan region from a religious perspective,” said Naqshbandy. “While we are still part of Iraq, we can have friendship committees made up of Kurdish and Israeli people, but we cannot work officially in the name of Judaism.”

In 2015, the Kurdish parliament created seven positions for Religious Minority Representatives. Mamsani’s position was unpaid and he learnt of his dismissal while abroad on sick leave. The son of a Muslim father and a Jewish mother has vowed to continue his work from outside the ministry.

Since the KRG failed to win the support of Western governments after the independence referendum, in which almost 97 percent of Kurds voted to leave Iraq, the regional government has been under pressure to improve relations with the central government in Baghdad. Iraq has no relations with the Jewish State and has always disapproved the work of the KRG’s Jewish Representative.

[Photo: Kurdistan Jewish community / YouTube]