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Kiss sparks debate in Iraqi Kurdistan

On the charred remains of a modern symbol of love in the Iraqi Kurdistan city of Sulaimaniyah, a young couple sparked a public debate about the religious versus secular nature of Iraqi Kurdish society.

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq — A photo of a couple kissing in the city of Sulaimaniyah in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, while standing on the charred remnants of the Statue of Love, won wide local acclaim. The photo was a protest against the vandalism targeting the statue — which had been destroyed — and the grave of poet Shirko Bekas, both in Azadi Park. The latter is one of Sulaimaniyah’s largest parks, and its name means “freedom” in Kurdish. The details of the vandalism and its perpetrators have yet to be revealed. Fingers are pointed, however, at Islamist extremists.

On Oct. 12, 2013, unidentified individuals set the statue on fire, destroying it. In addition, dozens of trees surrounding the statue were scorched. Days later, this was followed by an attack on the grave of the well-known Kurdish poet Shirko Bekas.

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