Iraqi couple protest statue vandalism with controversial kiss

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“It started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this?” sang American rock band The Killers, the same question could be asked in Iraq today.

Last week, an Iraqi photographer caused a storm of controversy when he posted picture of him kissing his fiancée in a park, reported London-based newspaper the Guardian.

The kiss was in protest of repeated vandalism of Zaher Sidq’s 2009 Statue of Love, which shows a man and a woman embracing.

Kamaran Najm posted a picture of himself and his girlfriend on social media website Facebook, showing the couple kissing on the plinth of a recently vandalized statue with the caption “No comment.”

“I was in the park with some friends. It was just a normal gathering, and I asked my girlfriend to climb up on the statue. I just turned to her and we looked at each other, and then we kissed,” he said.

“Of course, we knew it wasn’t just a normal kiss between boyfriend and girlfriend. It was a protest against the people who destroyed the statue.”

Little did the Iraqi photographer and his girlfriend know that the public kiss in Azadi Park, Sulaymaniyah, northern Iraq, would draw such large scale attention.

“The first three hours it was mainly media outlets calling me. I had no idea that this was the first public kiss in Azadi Park,” he said, referring to his claim that it was indeed the first, publically known, kiss to take place within in the park’s boundaries.

Iraqi authorities have reportedly reacted negatively to the protest; local media have said that the regional prosecutor is pursuing a lawsuit against Najm for “behaving or performing an act out of the accepted social and cultural norms.”

News that Najm could be charged for his public protest has led to copycat pictures on Facebook, but he says he has had little time to pay much attention to them. “I’ve been told couples in and outside Kurdistan have been taking pictures of themselves kissing and putting it on Facebook. I am told it is about 10 or 11 couples now,” Najm said.