Hundreds of members of the Syriac, Assyrian, and Chaldean communities in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq took part in the inauguration ceremony of the third annual Syriac Heritage Festival in Ankawa district in Erbil.
The three-day festival will feature traditional foods and entertainment, including cultural dances performed by two Assyrian ensemble dance groups from Armenia and Russia. The festival is expected to end on Thursday.
Local officials, government representatives as well as religious leaders attended the inauguration ceremony in Ankawa.
The festival follows the Christian communities’ celebrations of the Babylonian New Year–Akitu–and Easter.
The cultural event has been organized by the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) General Directorate of Syriac Culture and Arts for the third year in a row.
“I have sewn a Kurdistan Region flag to express my appreciation to the KRG that has hosted us for the past three years,” Hena Qasha, a seamstress from Nineveh Plains, told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday.
Following ISIS’s offensive in 2014, thousands of Christians from the Nineveh Plains fled to the Kurdistan Region seeking shelter. The KRG provided them with housing and basic services and continues to protect them today.
Ms. Qasha, with the assistance of her student, Noor Muhand, set up a booth displaying hand-made traditional clothes and rugs.
“A Christian female food vendor, Suad Malih, told Kurdistan 24 that “We are not here just to serve our traditional food, we want people to know our culture and who we are.”
Erbil’s political stability and security are the major factors for the peaceful coexistence of different religions and cultures, Aydin Maarouf, the KRG Minister of State for Minority Affairs, told Kurdistan 24.
The Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani 2022 upgraded the administrative status of Ankawa, making it the largest Christian district in the Middle East.
The Region is often hailed by Western countries for protecting minority rights and upholding the values of religious and ethnic coexistence.