This article is part 1 of the history of Iraqi flags series. Read part 2 and 3 here.
Any form of state structure requires a national identity. This national identity is in fact an answer to the questions of who we are and what’s binding us. Questions that logically follow from this deal with our political course and our standards and values. Generally, a national identity is based on the history, language, culture, religion, struggle and glory of a people. It allows people to unite around a sense of unity. In this way it ensures that the people are tied to the state and its institutions. When creating a national identity, various symbols are created with which a people are able to identify. This contributes to a sense of nationalism and unity.
One of those symbols are national flags: the primary way in which countries and peoples express themselves to the outside world. The colors, signs and composition of a flag have always been thought out and aim to embody a current identity, political belief and history of a country. In this article we are going to historically contextualize and explain Iraq's first flags .
In 1920 a national Iraqi uprising took place against the British colonizer who had just defeated the Ottoman Empire after the First World War in 1918. This successful uprising of 1920 resulted in Britain’s decision to govern Iraq indirectly rather than directly. This was fulfilled by means of a British Mandate and a pro-British king. The first Iraqi king was called Faysal and originated from the Hashemi tribe. At the same time, the pan-Arab movement was fighting to unite all Arab countries as allies of the British, because they fought together against the Ottomans during the First World War.
The first Iraqi flag was therefore a combination of the Pan-Arab movement flag and the colors of the Hashemite monarchies (a variation of black, green, white and a red triangle). However, the Pan Arab flag - black, green, white, red triangle - quickly lost its value when the Arab countries all became independent in the 1920s.
Many Arab countries, however, still embraced a variation on the Pan-Arab flag. Iraq, for example, initially decided to adopt the pan-Arab flag in 1921 and added two stars to it. There are different theories as to what those two stars represent. According to one theory, the Iraqi flag received two stars because it became the second independent Arab country. According to another theory, those two stars represent the Arab and Kurdish people. In any case, this flag did not last for a long period and was already changed after a year. Even though the changes were not very big, the color order had changed and the red triangle became a trapezoid. Interesting to point out is that in Iraq’s first constitution the design of the flag was added.
"The flag of Iraq shall be of the following shape and dimensions. The length of the flag shall be double its breadth. It shall be divided horizontally into three colours of equal size and parallel to each other, the upper section being black, the others white and green respectively. On the side of the staff there shall be a red trapezoid, the greater base of which shall be equal to the breadth of the flag and the lesser base equal to the breadth of the white section, the height being equal to one-quarter of the length of the flag. In the centre there shall be two white stars of seven points each, in a perpendicular position, parallel to the staff. The position of the flag, and the arms, insignia and decorations of the State shall be determined in accordance with special laws."
Read part 2 of the Iraqi flag series here.