History of Iraqi flags: The Iraqi Republic (1958-1963)

History Sep 25, 2020 3 min read

In part 1 of the Iraqi flag series we discussed the first Iraqi flag which was used between 1920 and 1958. The second flag of Iraq was introduced after the 14 July revolution in 1958.

On July 14, 1958, a coup took place in Iraq that ended the Hashimite monarchy (1921-1958). The revolution was marked by the execution of the last Iraqi King Faisal II and the members of his royal family. That same day, the Republic of Iraq (الجمهورية العراقية) was proclaimed with Abdul Karim Qasim as its prime minister. The new leadership was accompanied by a new flag, representing the pillars of the new regime: domestic social justice and unity.

Flag of the Iraqi Republic (1958-1963) 

The yellow sun symbolizes the Kurdish people, and the red flower honors the Iraqi Assyrian minority. The colors black, white, green and red are the colors of Pan Arabism, derived from the poem by the Iraqi Safi al-Din al Hilli:

White are our deeds, black our battles, green our fields, and red our swords.

This ideology was woven into the personality of Qasim, who, with his own mixed background, was seen as an embodiment of Iraq's ability to form its various ethnic and religious groups into a unified body. In his historic speech (1959), Qasim argued that although the Iraqi nation is politically divided, all Iraqis work towards the interests of the people and the welfare of the country. He concluded his speech with the insistence to “... consolidate national unity in our homeland ".

The revolution was not merely a replacement for the ruling power, but an outcome of a long continuous struggle of the people against an oppressive and divisive regime that did not act in accordance with Iraqi national interest. With the final breakdown of Hashimite nationalism, new efforts had to be made to generate a new national identity that catered for the local, Arab and Third World agendas. The state became deeply involved in cultural production, allowing professors considered radical by the past royal monarchy to resume their work. Formerly regarded as rebellious, artists and writers were appointed by the state to a variety of positions, from senior ministerial posts to minor positions in the government unions. The sentiment of wattaniya (homeland) was further promoted through the newspaper "The New Iraq". It emphasized the importance of the people (الشعب) who as a social group are formed by geography, cultural traditions and a Mesopotamian and Islamic history. The radio and TV also propagated the same new wataniyya ideology. In addition to Umm-Kulthum, Abd al-Halim and the Egyptian films, Iraqi maqam singers such as Nadhim al-Ghazali and theater writers such as Yusuf al-Ani were promoted. In addition, radio programs and newspapers that used Kurdish as the main language were normalized.

Performance of Iraqi Maqam-singer Nadhem al Ghazali (ناظم الغزالي) on national television

In this way, increasing attention was given to uniting the diverse Iraqi identities with Iraq's modern Iraqi history (wataniyya), while less attention was given to the role that pan-Arabism (qawmiyya) played in Iraqi history. This continued until February 8, 1963, when Qasim was brutally overthrown following a coup led by the Ba'ath Party. Until today, July 14 is a national holiday, taking us back to the era of Abdul Karim Qasim and his promise for a stable, united and just homeland.

Read part 1 of the flag series here.

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