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Iraq: 2004 Governing Council Proposal

Last modified: 2023-09-09 by ian macdonald
Keywords: crescent | governing council |
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[2004 Iraq proposal] image by Pascal Gross

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Status of the Flag

A news report from AFP suggests a new flag is under consideration for Iraq:

BAGHDAD, Oct. 26. — Iraq will soon have a new flag and national anthem, as part of efforts to sever all links with the era of Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath party, a member of the US-installed Government Council said today. "We have created a committee within the council to chose between different proposals to change the flag and the national anthem," Mr Muwaffak al-Rubai said. "For the national anthem, there is a consensus to go back to the one which existed before the early 1980s and which was called: ‘My homeland, my homeland,’" he said. Saddam brought in a new song glorifying his former ruling Ba’ath party, entitled: "A country that has spread its wings to the horizon."
Jan Oskar Engene, 27 October 2003

The flag was first reported by Reuters on 26 April 2004 as "a pale blue crescent on a white background and has a yellow strip between two lines of blue at the bottom." As for the symbolism Reuters quotes spokesman Hamid al-Kefaae who explained that "white stands for peace and a new start for Iraq". al-Kefaae also explained that the crescent represents Islam and that the blue stripes represented the Tigris and Euphrates. Yellow stands for Iraq's Kurdish population according to Reuters.
Jan Oskar Engene, 26 April 2004

This flag has been proposed by the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC). The IGC has no authority to adopt a new national flag (or pass any other law); all legislative authority rests with Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and CPA orders provide that all pre-war legislation remains in effect unless changed by CPA--not by the IGC. The IGC used the old (1991) flag at the recent presidential funeral and CPA uses the 1963 flag on its website. It is clear that the white-blue-yellow flag is not the "new Iraqi flag."
Joe McMillan, 27 May 2004

Today I managed to speak to British officials in the CPA to check the status of the new flag. The answer is that it is "a proposal" and has not yet been adopted. The Iraqi Governing Council that adopted the flag currently has no real power. It may be that the flag will be adopted when the handover takes place, but for the present the old flag continues. My colleague told me that he has yet to see the new flag anywhere (apart from in the newspapers). I have also heard that the flag's designer is a close relative (brother?) of a member of the Council.
Graham Bartram, 30 April 2004

In a report in the British newspaper, The Independent, it is noted:

When, as expected, the controversial new flag is hoisted inside the security of the Green Zone in Baghdad today, there is little prospect that the flag will be fluttering over other Iraqi cities. When security officers at the United Nations undertake the daily ritual this morning of raising the standards of the 191 member countries up the white poles arrayed outside UN headquarters in New York's First Avenue, for Iraq it will be the familiar flag of Saddam Hussein's rule that is unfurled. "So far, we haven't received anything about this from Baghdad," said Igor Novichenko, who is in charge of such matters in the UN's protocol unit. For now, he added, the old Iraqi flag of green and black, with "God is Great" in Arabic script across it, will retain its place outside UN headquarters.

When the idea of getting a new flag was first talked about last year, it stirred up strong feelings against change. But the Iraqi Governing Council, made up of former opponents of Saddam Hussein and Iraqis in exile during his rule, has a well-established reputation for being wholly out of touch with Iraqi opinion. The council approved the new flag, only asking the artist to make the crescent a deeper blue. "This is a new era," said Hamid al-Kafaei, the spokesman for the Iraqi Governing Council yesterday. "We cannot continue with Saddam's flag." The new flag is the work of an Iraqi artist resident in London called Rifat Chadirji whose design was the best of those considered. He is also the brother of Nassir al-Chaderchi, the chairman of the IGC committee charged with choosing a new flag for Iraq. "I had no idea about a competition to design the flag. My brother just called me and asked me to design a flag on behalf of the IGC. Nobody told me about a competition," Mr Chadirji told The Independent yesterday.
Located by Jarig Bakker, 28 April 2004

The AP reported:

The dramatic change in a national symbol could raise some complaints — particularly since it came from U.S.-picked leaders seen by many Iraqis as American puppets. U.S. administrators have tried quietly in the past to change the flag by dropping the words Allahu akbar, but Iraqis have refused to abide by the change. One council member said the Iraqi leadership should wait for an elected government before altering such a major national symbol. "In my opinion, it should be not be passed until we have a parliament," Mahmoud Othman said. "I think there are issues more important to concentrate on now than the changing of the flag."
Located by Mark Sensen, 26 April 2004

I have not been able to find any document by which the IGC "adopted" the white, blue, and yellow flag, although Massoud Barzani (who was then president of the IGC) did announce on 28 April that it would be the temporary flag of Iraq until an elected government decided otherwise. In any case, however, whatever the IGC may have said or done regarding a flag should legally be considered meaningless because the IGC has no authority to legislate. And, as far as I can tell, the Coalition Provisional Authority has taken no official notice of such actions. That means the white-blue-yellow flag cannot be official, whatever Barzani said.
So what is the current flag of Iraq? The Transitional Administrative Law--the provisional constitutional document under which Iraq is to be governed starting 30 June--says only (in article 8): "The flag, anthem, and emblem of the State shall be fixed by law." Reading all the relevant CPA documents, it seems to me that the 1991 flag is still the legal flag of Iraq, since no regulation or order has been issued by the CPA--the sole legislative authority in Iraq for the time being--to change it.
Joseph McMillan, 19 May 2004

I just heard on the radio that the Dutch flag producer Faber had made 2,000 of the "new" Iraqi flags, ordered by a Kuwaiti firm. They have no idea what to do with them.
Jarig Bakker, 28 June 2004

Almost 3 yrs ago (in July 2007), Jorge Candeias forwarded to me an opinion piece about the post-occupation Iraqi flag proposal, now defunct but archived at
It doesn’t add much to what we have, but quotes noted US (Jewish) left-wing humourist Jon Stewart about the similarity of the proposed flag – with its emblem and twin stripes in blue on white – with the flag of Israel , and offers a visual comparison with «flags of the Islamic world», noting how none is blue (but lacking Uyghuristan’s light blue flag).
António Martins-Tuválkin , 20 May 2010

Public disapproval for flag proposal in 2004

I came across this NBC news article:
It reports about the widespread public disapproval of the flag proposal of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), designed by Iraqi artist Rifaat Chaderchi. It confirms the main reason for the rejection which is only mentioned in António Martins' contribution of May 2010 (see above). He reported that US comedian Jon Stewart mocked about the colours' similarity to the flag of Israel.
The NBC article confirms this: "In interviews in several Baghdad neighborhoods, a variety of residents expressed strong negative reactions to the flag, which was reproduced in most daily newspapers. In particular, people objected to the pale blue color of the crescent and stripes, saying it was identical to the dominant color in the flag of Israel, a Jewish state. '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?'"
The IGC had a good will, though: "This flag represents the democracy and freedom of the new Iraq, where the old one represented killing and oppression and dictatorship," said IGC spokesman Hamid Kifaie. "We are not imposing this flag on the people; it was chosen by the legitimate representatives of Iraq. When a new national assembly is elected, it can decide whether to keep it or change it." The article also mentions a broader unhappiness with the IGC, which also may have influenced the rejection of the flag proposal.

Martin Karner, 26 August 2023