History & Design of the Iraq Flag
The flag of Iraq that is flown today has three horizontal stripes of equal sizes in the colors red, white and black. The most recent version of the flag was adopted in 2008 and bears the takbir in green on the white bar in the center. The takbir reads Allahu akbar or “God is great,” but the lettering has changed over the years.
The first flag of Iraq was adopted in 1921, known as the Kingdom of Iraq. The flag had a black horizontal bar across the top, a white horizontal bar in the center and a green horizontal bar on the bottom. However, there were variants of the flag used after 1930 with one version displaying a red trapezoid on the left with two seven-point white stars to denote the Arabs and Kurds, the two principal people of the kingdom. The second version had a red triangle with a gold crown in the center.
Merger with Egypt and Saudia Arabia
In 1958, after the merger with Egypt and Syria, the two Hashemite kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan established the Arab Federation, adopting a flag that was the same as the one used in Jordan although it eliminated the seven-point star in the chevron. The flag is identical to the flag of Palestine, which was adopted in 1964 and very similar to the flag used by the Ba’ath Party. The union only lasted six months and it was terminated by the Iraqi Revolution of 1958.
Egypt, Syria and Iraq Union
In 1963, Egypt, Syria and Iraq attempted to form a union and created a flag with one red horizontal bar on the top, one white horizontal bar in the center and one black horizontal bar across the bottom. In the center were three green stars that were to represent the three countries in the union. Although the union never came to be, Iraq used the flag as its national flag from 1963 until 1991, claiming that the three stars represented the attempts Iraq made to unify Arab countries.
During the first Iraq War, the Iraq flag was changed again with the addition of the takbir in green added between the stars in the handwriting of Saddam Hussein. The text is read from right to left on both sides of the flag. The addition of the words “God is Great” to the flag was an attempt to gain support for the conflict from outlawed religious leaders as well as to improve the Islamic credentials of the leadership in Iraq.
After First Iraq War
As a compromise measure after the first Iraq War, the United States appointed administration changed the writing on the flag from Hussein’s handwriting to a traditional Kufic script. The flag was adopted and revealed during a ceremony marking the handover of power from the Coalition Provincial Authority to the United States appointed administration in 2004. There was some opposition to the flag as many felt it was a “Saddamist flag,” despite the fact that the basic design of the flag was in existence for decades before Hussein’s rule. There was a movement to change the flag to one with a blue crescent on a white background with two blue and one gold horizontal bar across the bottom. The white of the flag was to represent purity, the two blue bands to represent the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the yellow to represent the Kurdish majority, the crescent to represent Islam and the blue to represent Turkmen. Many felt the design was too similar to that used by Israel and public outcry led the design to be abandoned.
Iraq Flag Contest
In 2008, because opposition to what was still considered the Saddamist flag, the Iraqi parliament launched a flag design contest. Six designs were chosen as finalists and sent to the parliament. The flag was adopted by Law 9 of 2008, keeping the red, white and black bars, but removing the three stars. The takbir remained in the center of the white bar in green, traditional script. The parliament initially intended the flag to only be in place for one year, at which time a final decision would be made. The flag was renewed in April 2009.
The Iraqi flag has changed considerably over the years as mergers and revolutions changed the leadership of the country. Today’s flag is meant to represent the different people of the country and creating a sense of unity among those who live there.