Thursday, January 17, 2008
The New Iraqi Flag
The recent development in Iraqi parliamentary hell was the second major attempt to pass up a change for the Iraqi flag an national anthem, after the major failure of the 2004 attempt. As suspected, the instigators of this move is yet again, our lovely northern brothers, the Kurds. As a minor compromise solution, an interim design will be approved until a final decision will be made on the final flag and the new national anthem a year later, details are still hazy, and numerous suggested interim flags have appeared on the net, but most prominently the one that only changes the phrase "Allah Akbar" to yellow, the traditional color of the Kurds.
When the new 2004 flag was presented, like many other people, the flag felt strangely alien and removed from me, it boldly dispensed with the traditional Pan-Arab colors (red, green, white, black) which compose most Arab flags, to add insult to injury, it employed a palette that bore a close resemblance:
Same as many other people, I did not understand why a need to change the flag was even necessary ; it never struck me as a symbol for anything but Iraq alone, and it was also a damn good flag.
But then I read the history of the Iraqi flag, it is apparently the most unstable flag of the Arab world, changing for four times, and each time, the change coincided with the installation of a new, radically different political system. It started in 1921 with the traditional Arab revolution Hashemite flag, only different from Jordan's by one star, through Qassim's communist period (some people still use this flag in forums), into the traditional horizontal-stripes red-white-black Pan-Arab flag adorned by the Ba'ath party.
With the realization that the Iraqi flag is not a sacred symbol as I expected it to be, I rationally concluded that, in order to entirely proclaim the beginning of a new chapter, then a new flag reflecting that change in Iraq must also be set in order. I must say however, that this change got as far as my brain, my heart was still beating auricle and ventricle under the banner of the old flag, and it's really hard to come up with a flag that can express Iraq as part of its Arab universe but still indicate the supposedly "bright change" that is to come.
And then I began to consider other factors:
1. the only people who are actively seeking the retirement of the old flag and who hate it with all its gut are, unsurprisingly, the secessionist-dreaming Kurds, who are still dreaming their little chauvinistic Pan-Kurdish pipe dreams while we the Arabs, the ones who messed around with those Pan things and failed a century before them can now enjoy this black comedy as they follow exactly the footsteps of our miserable fuck-ups, worse yet, they can't seem to even find the first step.
2. The majority of Iraq, even the Shias, who have suffered intolerably under Saddam's Iron Moustache, do not look upon the flag as an extension of that hateful persona. Why? Because, slowly and surely, the realization began to form in my mind, that this flag represents Iraq. After all, this is not a Baathist flag ; it is an ARAB flag, more precisely, it is a Pan-Arab flag: Egypt and Yemen, both non-Baathist countries, bear the same design.
3. The nation-state of Iraq is only 75 years old, it has no traditional flags it can revert to (like Germany and Russia did after the collapse of Nazism and the USSR respectively) except the Pan-Arab revolution flag which is based on traditional Arab-Islamic flags, our current flag also holds the same colors, except it's much more kick-ass.
4. Building on point number 3, and taking into consideration that the current flag has been used for 40 years, more than the period any other flag had been used (the runner-up Hashemite flag was used for 25 years), this flag can be considered to have seeped comfortably into the public consciousness to attain a rightful claim to a flag that everybody agrees upon as representative of Iraq alone.
5. MOST IMPORTANTLY, Any flag, regardless of how beautiful or reflective it is, born under those miserable circumstances Iraq is passing through, will be first and foremost a representation of those conditions before anything else, and thus will be reviled, detached and despised by the very people it is supposed to rally.
Hence we conclude that this flag is a valid foundation upon which only minor additions may suffice for a change, if at all.
And also we conclude that the only reasons by which a person can diligently hate this flag beyond reason, like our brothers the Kurds do, is
1. your absolute intolerance of Arabism or Iraqism.
2. Your indifference to how much problems the change of the flag would cause because you are all you care about is your own little mountainous kingdom *hint hint*
3. The only patriotic pretext for hating this flag would be your legal right to hate Pan-Arabist movements, one of which was the Ba'ath Party. BUT this is negated by #4 above.
That and that alone. Of course, the Kurds have the right to determine their destiny, but if they wish to remain part of Iraq, they must tolerate its holiest icon, okay, let us be the generous ones here, we already know that you Kakas hate Iraq, but since our envisioning for a new, better chapter of Iraq would be a better representation of its more overlooked constituents, we might tolerate a reflection of your 17% presence on the flag, but not, of course, in the center, what do you think this is? I think a better idea is to put you as footnotes, or margins, like this:
The Iraqi parliament is holding a competition to choose the new flag, but did they ever consider a referendum to see if people wanted to change the flag?! maybe I should submit my brilliance...
This website (Arabic) contains many submissions for a new Iraqi flag from all over the world, they range from crayon crazy to helplessly romantic (Doves and hearts?! What is this, Snow White?), click the links to the left of the website to see them.
One of the interesting symbols I've seen in that site is the 'Babylonian Sun', this might be a good thing to put instead of the three stars, a remnant of the days Iraq was the potential '3rd state' to join the United Arab Republic after Egypt and Syria (afterwards, their meaning was changed to the Ba'ath Party slogan: Unity, Freedom and Socialism.)
Look a bit too much like Egypt, but then again they all look alike, when I was in Syria I kept thinking why the hell are they hoisting our flag everywhere?!
All in all, the issue is quite preposterous, and is only raised up because our BROTHERS (aargh) the Kurds, want to show us how strong they've become, quite indifferent to the hellhole all of Iraq has become, so as Shalash al-Iraqi said to Mes'ood Barazani the day he lowered the Iraqi flag from Kurdish soils: If you don't see us from your high mountains, then we don't see you as well.