A restaurant in Iraqi Kurdistan named after Nazi German dictator Adolf Hitler has been forced to change its name.
Reports about the controversial new eatery in the city of Duhok came out earlier this week, triggering much debate on social media but little concern by local customers, who had been seen filling up the restaurant and saying they did not care how it was called.
The restaurant’s logo resembles a swastika and reads “Hetlar Resturant” in English.
The owner, Rebar Mohammed, said he did not identify with the ideology of the Holocaust perpetrator and claimed it had merely been a bid for publicity.
“Hitler was the dictator of Germany and has nothing to do with me. I know I have named my restaurant ‘Hitler,’ but that does not mean that I love him,” he told local news site Rudaw. “I have done it just to make my restaurant famous among people.”
“Whoever visits my restaurant says they do not care what the name of my restaurant is,” he added. “What is important for them is the cleanliness and taste of my food.”
“My business does not operate in the name of a dictator, but a famous person,” he argued.
He added that authorities had paid no attention to the name when he registered his restaurant.
“Even when I started the paperwork seven months ago to register my restaurant’s name, I did not receive any negative reactions from the government or security forces. It was quite normal,” Mohammed said.
According to the Duhok Chamber of Commerce and Industry, there are no restrictions on how to name a restaurant in the region.
However, after the reports came out, local security authorities in the autonomous region ordered the restaurant closed until its name is changed.
“Nazism and racism would not be tolerated in the autonomous Kurdish region, and such actions are against the law,” a local government source was quoted as saying by the Kurdistan 24 website. “The Kurdistan Regional Government does not promote such ideology.”
Hours later, employees could be seen taking down the signs with the Hitler name.