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Iraq

Jumhuriyyat al-'Iraq, The Republic of Iraq

Last modified: 2013-11-29 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: stars: 3 (green) | text: arabic (green) | allahu akbar | takbir | triband | iraq | pan-arab colors | arab colors |
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[Iraq]
image by Eugene Ipavec, 24 Jan 2008
Adopted 29 Jan 2008


See also: External site:

Description of the Iraqi Flag

Description: Horizontally divided red-white-black flag with the takbir in dark green Kufic calligraphy, placed horizontally in the white stripe. The hoist of the Iraqi flag should be at the viewer's right, as is the case for Saudi Arabia and Iran, two other flags featuring Arabic inscriptions (which are read from right to left).
Use: on land, State and war flag, at sea, civil, state and war ensign.

Colour approximate specifications (as given in [Album des Pavillons 2000 ):

  • Red: Pantone 185 c / CMYK (%) C 0 – M90 – Y 75 – K 0
  • Green: Pantone 355 c / CMYK (%) C 100 – M 0 – Y 95 – K 5 [note –: applies to green of 1963-2008 flag]

Symbolism of the Flag

Reuters just reported that the parliament of Iraq voted today to adopt a new interim national flag, new in the sense that the old flag is modified so that the three stars are removed but the inscription remains. AFP news agency now reports that the inscription "Allahu Akhbar" (God is Greater) will be in green and that it is written in the Kufic script.
So, now we have the basic idea of the flag that will serve as the national flag for one year: The old one without the stars.
Jan Oskar Engene, 22 Jan 2008

Interesting how the stars seem to be as associated with Hussein as the first version of the takbir that appeared on the flag. The stars were put on by the Baathist party, but 5 years before Saddam took control of the party. They were originally meant to express Arab unity (specifically with Egypt and Syria, who also altered their flags to include 3 stars). By the time Saddam took power, the unity with Egypt and Syria was a no-go, so the stars' meaning was altered. Now, granted, Saddam's meaning for the stars lasted for at least 35 years, where the "Arab unity" meaning was no more than 5 years, so it would be more entrenched in the Iraqi mind that it stands for the Baath party values, but since they used to mean Arab unity, why can't it go back to that?
David Kendall, 22 Jan 2008

As I understand it from the news reports, the main motive in the flag change is to overcome Kurdish opposition to the current national flag. Given the level of hatred for the 3-star flag in Kurdistan I doubt any cosmetic reinterpretation would mollify them in any case, but I strongly suspect that merely substituting a Pan-Arab meaning to replace a Baathist meaning would amount to "six of one, half a dozen of the other" in Kurdish minds.
Ned Smith, 22 Jan 2008

Not to compare the two situations, but something similar happened with the Georgia (US state) flag. When they changed the flag in 2001 to the LOB horror, they added – probably in a futile attempt to silence some critics – the legend "In God We Trust" on the bottom. When they went to the much nicer design in 2003, there was no way they were going to have a flag without those words. Never mind that they'd only appeared for two years before and that they are the national, not state, motto: The new flag takes the state arms from previous flags and places it in the first Confederate flag- and adds the motto.
Again, I realize that the situations are completely different, but I wonder if there's a similar dynamic here: The stars, which Hussein did not add, are removed, but the motto, which he definitely did add, is only altered in font, but remains. Perhaps once God, or Allah, appears on a flag, people are reluctant to remove Him.
Nathan Lamm, 22 Jan 2008

The takbir is certainly a considerably darker shade than those we've seen hitherto. We shall have to await a formal translation of the law of course, but if the one-third of flag length quoted proves to be accurate then the official image (and Jan Oscar's) show the takbir at far too large a size.
The official image illustrates the inscription at about 7/15 of flag length, with the figures on my prelimary spec (based on a flag of 120 x 180 units due to a vertical placing of the takbir) reading 40-40-40 for the hoist, 49-76-55 for the length and 10-23-7 for the central stripe at the fly.
Christopher Southworth, 23 Jan 2008

Colors

The Iraqi flag has what are known as the pan-Arab colors, black, white, red, and green. For a discussion of the history and symbolism of these colors, see Pan-Arab Colors.
contributor and date unknown

[In the Jan. 2008 Flag Act, t]he colours of the flag are explained as "the Islamic colours."
Jan Oskar Engene, 22 Jan 2008

The Takbir

The takbir [الله أكبر, Allahu Akbar ("God is great") in Arabic script] in green was added to the 1963 flag during the Gulf War, 13 January 1991. The Arabic text may be read from right to left on both sides of the flag, which are identical.
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 08 Jan 2001

As I noted before, the 1991 flag (and the arms) included the Allahu Akbar salutation in Saddam Hussein's own handwriting. Certainly, the new Iraqi government doesn't want to associate itself with the former dictator's calligraphy, but taking under consideration the overwhelming rejection of the recently proposed "blue" flag, got to modify the flag used universally by their people. Nothing better than using decorative Kufic script, which originated in Iraq, in the town of Kufa (one of the most important cultural centers of an early Islamic period) and is used extensively for the calligraphy of Qur'ans. It might look like a "block style", but, in reality, it is a venerable Kufic script, well known and admired by the Iraqi people.
Chrystian Kretowicz, 29 Jun 2004

On June 30 this design was raised over the Iraqi embassy in Washington when it reopened, and the adoption of this new design seems to be general for high-profile government use at least.
Richard Knipel, 27 Aug 2004

The choice of Kufic calligraphy for the takbir on Iraq's new flag is quite appropriate. The Kufic style is oldest calligraphic form of the Arabic script and originates in Kufa (al-Kufah), which is south of Baghdad near Najaf. Wikipedia has a short article on Kufic (with some links to other sites about the Kufic hand and history.)
Kufic was also used for the takbir on the Iraqi flag after the US invasion, to remove Saddam Hussein's handwritten version from the flag.
Brian Ellis, 24 Jan 2008


Legislation

The web site of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, the parliament of Iraq, has put out an image of what is appears to be the new interim flag, valid for one year. Further details are available here.
The ratio appears to be 2:3, though the appearance of the image is somewhat forcefully stretched in the web site.
Based on a computer translation of this latter page it seems that the Act passed today amends previous legislation, that is Act No. 33 of 1986 and Law No. 6 of 1991. It appears representatives had four proposals to choose from and that proposal B won by 110 out of 165 votes. The colours of the flag are explained as the Islamic colours. There is also reference to the deletion of article one of the 1991 act, concerning the three stars and the "handwriting of President Saddam Hussein, the President of the Republic." The inscription is to be in bold and occupies one third of the length (?) of the flag.
Jan Oskar Engene
, 22 Jan 2008

Based on a report from the Information Service of the Iraqi Parliament, and with the help of some rusty automatic translation, it seems the legislation being dealt with this week amends two existing pieces of legislation:

  • Act No. 33 of 1986 on the flag of Iraq as far as the symbolism of the stars are concerned, and
  • Law No. 6 of 1991 on the flag of Iraq concerning the colour and style of the inscription.
Apart from this it seems the report contains no details about the contents of the new flag act.
The report from the Information Service of the Iraqi Parliament is available here. The flag-relevant paragraph is at the end of the document.
There is no mention of flag related legislation dating from the period after the toppling of the previous regime following the US invasion. This might be an indication that the flag actually in use now has never been regulated by law.
Jan Oskar Engene, 15 Jan 2008

So the 2004 flag with the Kufic writing is only de facto, the previous flag with the more "freehand" script (supposedly of Saddam himself) was still the legal flag [until 2008]?
David Kendall , 14 Jan 2008

The web site of the president of Iraq announces that the Iraqi Presidency has signed into law on Tuesday 29 January the Flag Act passed by Parliament a week ago. This means that the new/modified flag is now official.
Jan Oskar Engene, 31 Jan 2008


The 2004-2008 Flag

[Iraq, 2004-2008]
image by Pascal Gross and Graham Bartram
Adopted 31 Jul 1963; modified 13 Jan 1991; modified 28 Jun 2004; abandoned 22 Jan 2008

One thing that has puzzled me is the existence of the three stars on the Iraqi flag. What do they represent? According to [ Yehiam Padan (1998), the three stars represent the aspiration for unification with Egypt and Syria, but is it so? I always thought that the stars represented the three ethnic groups of the population (Shia' Muslims, Sunni Muslims, and Kurds).
Dov Gutterman, 06 Apr 2003

That they represent the desire for unification is what all my sources say, except for [ Barraclough, who doesn't say a thing. It seems to me that stars in Arab flags generally point to supranational unification attempts (except in "crescent and star" designs).
Ole Andersen, 06 Apr 2003

This is what my sources say also with regard to Arab aspirations, and according to my info (gathered from various places) Iraq flew the tricolor with three stars from 1963-1991, Syria from 1963-1972, and Egypt from 1958-1972. After the attempt to create a supranational Arab entity failed, it is more than likely that Iraq replaced the original meaning with a new interpretation.
Christopher Southworth, 06 Apr 2003

The three-star flag was introduced by the Baathist government. The Baath is a secularist Arab socialist movement and would therefore be most unlikely to symbolize the existence of any religious sect or non-Arab ethnic group in its choice of flag designs. Even before the rise of the Baath, according to Phebe Marr's Modern History of Iraq, Iraqi governments have long tried to eradicate subnational loyalties wherever possible as a way of solidifying support for the (Sunni-Arab-led) unitary state. Far more likely, therefore, that a government committed to pan-Arabism (as the government that adopted the three-star flag in 1963 was) would choose to echo the symbols chosen by other pan-Arabist governments. Charles Tripp's A History of Iraq says (p. 173) that (in 1963), "Initially the new regime proclaimed a desire for unity with Egypt," and (p. 174) "The government entered into a tripartite commitment to unification with Egypt and Syria in April 1963" after a coup in Damascus brought a Baathist government to power there. According to one website on Iraqi flags [no longer on-line] the three stars stood for the three countries of the proposed union when the flag was adopted in 1963, but the meaning was changed to the three words of the Baath motto, "freedom, unity, socialism," after the 1968 coup that brought the Saddam Hussein faction of the party to power.
Joe McMillan, 10 Apr and 04 Jun 2003

Egypt and Syria formed in 1958 the United Arab Republic. The new republic adopted a flag made of three horizontal red-white-black stripes, with two green stars placed on the white stripe. The two stars represented the two states which constituted the republic. In 1961, Syria left the UAR but Egypt kept using the name "UAR" and the flag until January 1st 1972. In 1963, Egypt, Syria and Iraq tried to constitute a new union, to no avail. The proposed flag for the union should have been the same as the UAR flag, but with three stars symbolizing the three states constituting the union. The union never existed but Iraq retained the proposed flag as its national flag. The official explanation of the three stars was they should remind Iraqis of attempts to unify the Arab countries.
Ivan Sache, 13 Jul 2003

Today, in the mornig (Baghdad time zone), the Independent News Agency Aswat al-Iraq announced that the final vote in the Parliament will occur on January 19th. The story also mentions the staunch opposition of Kurdistan's president, Massoud al-Barzani to the retention of the 3 "baathist" stars on the new flag.
He also urges the Parliament "to speed up changing the Iraqi flag ahead of the Arab parliamentarians conference to be hosted by Arbil (a city in the Kurdish Region) in February 2008."
Chrystian Kretowicz, 16 Jan 2008

Last week there was news of an imminent change to the flag of Iraq. Nothing final was decided it seems, but the issue is not dead and now Associated Press just released a report telling us in the headline that "Iraq lawmakers discuss dispute with Kurds over national flag". According to the report: "Lawmakers said there were several recommendations to defuse the crisis and that a vote by the 275-seat house on a new flag was likely Tuesday." The proposals were described as follows:

"Among the proposals [...] was leaving the flag unchanged but announcing to the nation a new explanation of the meaning of its black, red and while colors as well as its three green stars and Arabic words or Another proposal was for the removal of the three stars, which are thought to symbolize Saddam's now-dissolved Baath Party, or changing the calligraphy of the words.

Alaa Maki, a Sunni Arab lawmaker from the Iraqi Islamic Party, said the Kurds already have rejected the proposal to leave the flag unchanged. Another legislator, Haidar al-Abadi of al-Maliki's Dawa party, said there was a tendency to keep the changes down to a minimum to head off a possible popular backlash."

The motivation for pressing forward with a change is that an international meeting is taking place in Arbil (Erbil/Irbil) next month. The city is located in the Kurdish part of Iraq where the current flag has not been flying because the government there associates it with the previous regime. So the government of Iraq is eager to see hoisted in time for the meeting a national flag acceptable also to the Kurdish parties.
Jan Oskar Engene, 21 Jan 2008


National Flag at the London 2012 Olympics

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012 [loc12]) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For Iraq: PMS 185 red, 355 green and black. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees anti-clockwise. Both sides are identical.
Ian Sumner, 10 October 2012