Thursday, May 25, 2006


Thankyou, Ralf Chadirchi. We'll be in touch.

New Flags for Old

Remember the new Iraqi flag? Two years ago this month, London and Washington, working with the ‘governing council’ of Iraq, proudly unveiled a brand new design for a national Iraqi standard. The flag, it was said, had been chosen in a competition from thirty ideas. The winning idea came from the shaky pen of septegenarian London-based Iraqi artist, Ralf Chadirchi. There's his design, up there.

You can see why the Coalition, and the Baghdad bigwigs, wanted rid of the old green and red flag. It had way too many associations with the hated Saddam regime - indeed Saddam himself had added the inscription ‘God is great’ to the national flag, in 1990. By contrast, the design of the new flag, with its big white spaces, its benign sea-blue crescent, and its soft yellow and blue stripes (representing the Tigris and Euphrates), was thought to be much more ‘inclusive‘.

Unfortunately, not everyone was as keen on the new flag as Bush, Blair and the Baghdad government. The first hitch came when some Iraqis said the faded blues and whites made the flag look like ‘the Jew flag’ - the Star of David.

So the light blues were darkened. But then the Iraqis started demonstrating - and petitioning - against the whole idea of a new flag. Who chose it? Were the people asked? The governing council, beginning to panic, offered to turn the crescent red, or gold. Or tartan.

The final straw came just a few weeks later, when the flag was lampooned in the Onion, the US satirical mag. The Onion claimed that the two blue stripes represented Uday and Qusay, ‘who were totally fucking killed’, it added that the flag was rectangular, 'to represent flagness', and that the white spaces were meant for the logos of future corporate sponsors.

The flag was dropped. These days the Iraqis fly a slightly a stretched version of, yes, their old flag. Cynics might see this as sadly metaphorical of the whole country.

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