The flag of Iraq (Arabic: علم العراق) includes the three equal horizontal red, white, and black stripes of the Arab Liberation flag. This basic tricolor has been in use since 1963, with several changes to the green symbols in the central white stripe; the most recent version bears the takbīr rendered in green.
The first flag of modern Iraq was the Kingdom of Iraq,
and was adopted in 1921. It was a black-white-green horizontal flag,
with a red trapezoid (some variants have a triangle) extending from the
mast side, inspired by the flag of the Arab Revolt.
Two seven-point white stars on the triangle denoted the two principal
peoples of the kingdom: the Arabs and the Kurds. The design also
reflected the newly installed Hashemite Dynasty in Iraq (originally from Hejaz in the Arabian Peninsula), who had played a leading role in the Arab Revolt. As such, it was similar to the flags of Hashemite Jordan, and the short-lived Kingdom of Hejaz. Prior to Iraqi independence in 1932, this flag was also used by the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. Today, it is used by pro-Hashemite monarchists in Iraq.
In 1958, in response to the merger of Egypt and Syria in the United Arab Republic, the two Hashemite kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan established the Arab Federation,
a confederation of the two states. The flag of the union was
essentially that of Jordan but without seven pointed star in the red
chevron. This flag is identical to the flag of Palestine adopted in 1964, and almost identical to the flag of the Ba'ath Party. The union lasted less than six months, being terminated by the Iraqi Revolution of 1958 in July.
Following the Revolution of 14 July 1958, led by Abdul Karim Qassim, which abolished the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq and turned the country into a republic, Iraq
adopted a new flag (Law 102 of 1959) that consisted of a
black-white-green vertical tricolour, with a red eight-pointed star with
a yellow circle at its centre. The black, white, green, and red are the
pan-Arab colours, representing pan-Arabism, while the yellow sun represented the Kurdish minority. In addition, the red star (of Ishtar) was used to represent Iraq's ancient heritage, as well as its minority Christian (the Chaldeans, Syriac, and Assyrian)
After Qassim was overthrown by the Ba'ath Party in 1963, the new Ba'athist government adopted a modified version of the Arab Liberation flag
as the new flag of Iraq on 31 July 1963 (Law 28 of 1963). This
horizontal tricolour of red, white, and black bands (first used in the Egyptian Revolution of 1952) formed the basis of the flag of the United Arab Republic
(UAR). Though the UAR broke up in 1961, hopes for Arab unity persisted.
As such, whereas the UAR flag had two green stars in the white band,
signifying its two members (Egypt and Syria),
the new Iraqi flag had three stars, symbolising the aspiration that
Iraq would join with Egypt and Syria in a new union. Sharing this goal,
Syria adopted the new Iraqi flag as its own later that same year. This
remained the flag of Syria until 1971, when the green stars were replaced by the Hawk of Qureish.
The Iraqi Flag Law No. 28 of 1963 was replaced by Flag Law No. 33 of 1986, during the presidency of Saddam Hussein,
in which although the flag remained the same, the meaning of the three
stars was changed from their original geographic meaning to
representations of the three tenets of the Ba'ath Party motto: wahda, hurriyah, ishtirakiyah (unity, freedom and socialism).
On 13 January 1991, the flag was modified by Flag Law No. 6 of 1991. At the instigation of Saddam Hussein, the takbīr (the phrase Allahu akbar, meaning "God is great" in Arabic) was added in green between the stars. The form of the takbīr was said to be Saddam's own handwriting. Many
interpreted the addition of the sacred Islamic text as an attempt to
garner wartime support from previously outlawed religious Iraqi leaders,
to stop the disrespect of the Iraqi flag in Iraqi-occupied Kuwait, and to bolster the Iraqi government's Islamic credentials in the period immediately preceding the Persian Gulf War.
Due to these differing views, and the prevailing opposition to an
outright abandonment of the current Iraqi flag, a compromise measure was
adopted by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi interim administration in 2004. The
basic form of the existing flag was retained; however, the takbīr was rendered in traditional stylized Kufic script, as opposed to the handwriting of Saddam Hussein.
On 22 January 2008, a new design for the flag was confirmed by Law 9 of
2008. In this current version, the three stars were removed. The
parliament intended that the new design last for one year, after which a
final decision on the flag would be made. However, the flag law was
reviewed in parliament on 30 April 2009.
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