The new Iraqi flag was revealed today, and like so many things done by the Iraqi Governing Council and the American-led Coalition Provisional Authority, many Iraqis roundly dissed it.
One of the problems is that the colors — a pale blue crescent moon, darker blue strips at the bottom representing the Tigris and Euphrates, and a yellow stripe representing the Kurds — are pretty close to colors on the Israeli flag.
“When I saw it in the newspaper, I felt very sad,” said Muthana Khalil, 50, a supermarket owner in Saadoun, a commercial area in central Baghdad. “The flags of other Arab countries are red and green and black. Why did they put in these colors that are the same as Israel? Why was the public opinion not consulted?”
It was a bone-headed move for the Iraqi Governing Council — widely despised in Iraq as a hotbed of cronyism and as a lackey for the Americans — to mess around with such an important national symbol. But from the comments from the Iraqi street, it seems most people are just fed up with _anything_ the Governing Council does.
“I will be delighted when this council is dissolved and a new government is formed,” said Amer Abdulaimy, 38, a day laborer, who said he preferred the old flag and saw no reason to change it. “The council has done nothing for us, and it is the same as the American government. We need free elections.”
But also, damn, that’s an ugly flag. I mean, it really is. I know my opinion doesn’t matter a whit, since I’m a citizen of a country with a — frankly — fairly busy and garish national banner, but the new Iraqi flag looks like some guy with a Macintosh spent about 30 minutes working this up.
But aside from the aesthetic problem, there’s that big yellow stripe representing the Kurds. (Is it supposed to mean the Kurds live _between_ the Tigris and Euphrates? I don’t know.) The Turcomans and Assyrians, already feeling squeezed by the newfound popularity of the Kurds with the new kids in town, are surely rightly pissed off about being left off the new flag. Where is their heritage celebrated?
And what about a symbol for the Arabs? The crescent moon is a symbol of Islam, which includes about 1 billion people — Arabs, yes, but also Kurds, Persians, Turks, Indonesians, etc. It’s a pretty all-encompassing identity. Most Muslims _aren’t Arabs._ But most Iraqis are. What indicates that fact on that flag? That’s what the red, white, green and black stripes used to indicate.
My point is not — entirely — to pick nits on a flag that assaults my aesthetic sensibilities. It’s to remind people that Iraq is a devilishly diverse country, with more groups than simply Arabs and Kurds. There are the aforementioned Turcomans and Assyrian Christians, as well as Yezedis, just to name a few.
I suspect the flag is, once again, an example of superior politicking by the Kurds. When I was in Arbil during the early war, a spokesman for the KDP — whose name I have lost, I’m sorry! — told me he wished that Iraq could be taken out of the Arab League, since it incorporates a large Kurdish minority. His point is arguable, but this flag makes no specific reference to any nationality _but_ the Kurds.
This flag flies in the face of most Iraqis and the Council should have waited to allow a permanent government to change Iraq’s national symbols.