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Iraq's flag redesign erases one of the last public symbols of the Hussein regime

Some see the move by parliament as an encouraging sign of unity and compromise.

By Peter Smith / January 23, 2008

The most recent Iraqi flag – a red, white, and black field with green Arabic script and three green stars – was retired by the parliament this week and replaced. While agreement on a new – if temporary – flag was hailed as a sign of progress and a more unified national identity, for some, the latest version represents continued ethnic divide.

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The background colors of the flag is the same: red, white, and black. The inscription, the calligraphic style of which was changed in 2004, will remain. But the banner's three stars have disappeared in a bid to strip the flag of a key reminder of Saddam Hussein's rule, reports Al Jazeera.

[T]hree green stars in the centre, which represented Saddam's Baath party motto of unity, freedom and socialism, have been removed. ... The script was originally in Saddam's handwriting but was changed unofficially in 2004 to Kufic, an early form of Arabic calligraphy that originated in [Southern] Iraq.

The flag change appeared to be a step in the right direction, according to The Times of London:

"The new flag has no signs of Saddam's regime and is a sign that change has been achieved in the country," said Humam Hamoudi, a leading Shia politician. It will also be seen as further evidence that the Parliament is beginning to tackle difficult issues.

Iraq has had numerous flags since the country's 1921 inception by British mandate. White, black, green, and red appeared on most of the flags, representing Arab-Islamic powers. In 1958, a yellow sun was added to symbolize Iraqi Kurds. In 1963, Arab nationalists replaced the sun with three stars. The handwritten script, Allahu akbar ("God is great"), was added by Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War.

The conservative blogger and occasional Wall Street Journal columnist, Omar Fadhil, on the blog Iraq the Model, writes that the past two flags were not sufficiently representative.]

"The old flag was not an Iraqi flag. It was the flag of the Arab nationalist and didn't represent the various components of the complex Iraqi society, and after Saddam had put the holy words on it, it became Saddam's flag.]"

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