Sulaymaniyah Liberation Day in Iraqi Kurdistan Date in the current year: March 7, 2024

Sulaymaniyah Liberation Day in Iraqi Kurdistan Sulaymaniyah (Slemani) Liberation Day in Iraqi Kurdistan (an autonomous region in northern Iraq populated primarily by Kurds) is observed on March 7. It commemorates the capture of the city by Kurdish rebels during the 1991 uprisings in Iraq.

The 1991 uprisings in northern and southern Iraq, sometimes referred to as the 1991 Iraqi Civil War, broke out after Iraq’s defeat in the Gulf War. The rebels were mostly Shia Arab Islamists, Kurdish nationalists, members of anti-regime groups, and disillusioned Iraqi soldiers. Southern uprisings were mostly spontaneous, while Kudrish uprisings in northern Iraq were planned by Kurdish nationalist organizations.

The uprising in Iraqi Kurdistan broke out on March 5, 1991 in Ranya, a town in Sulaymaniyah Governorate. Two days later, the Peshmerga (Kurdish military forces) entered the city of Sulaymaniyah and ousted government forces. Local civilians joined the Peshmerga and helped them capture government buildings and detention centers where hundreds of political prisoners were held.

The last building to fall to the rebels was the Security Directorate. Government forces defended it for over two hours, but in the end the Peshmerga and civilian rioters entered the building. By March 8, the Peshmerga had control over the entire city of Sulaymaniyah. About 700 government security personnel were executed, but most regular soldiers were allowed to return home. After that, rebels captured Erbil on March 11, Duhok on March 13, and Kirkuk on March 20.

Having defeated rebels in the south, the Iraqi Army turned north to confront the Peshmerga and regain control over northern cities. About three quarters of Iraqi troops (approximately 90,000 people) were sent to Sulaymaniyah. During a ten-day assault, both sides suffered heavy losses. Fortunately, most civilians had evacuated from the city before the government forces took control of Sulaymaniyah on April 3, 1991.

In July, the Peshmerga decided to regain control over Erbil, Duhok and Sulaymaniyah and launched an assault. By October 1991, the rebels and the Iraqi government signed a ceasefire. The Peshmerga was left in control of a significant area which became a de facto Kurdish state ruled by the Kurdish Regional Government.

In Iraqi Kurdistan, there are several observances commemorating the 1991 uprisings. They include the 1991 Rebellion Anniversary (March 5), Sulaymaniyah Liberation Day (March 7), Duhok Liberation Day (March 13), Kirkuk Liberation Day (March 20), and Sulaymaniyah City Fallen and Martyrs Day (June 13).

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Sulaymaniyah Liberation Day, Slemani Liberation Day, holidays in Iraqi Kurdistan, observances in Iraq, 1991 uprisings in Iraq