After communism and capitalism, there is asterism.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Flagging at the Iraqi Blogodrome

Collage of the new versus the old Iraqi flag by Konfused Kid

Iraq has a new national flag. Some people may say that flags are really not important, but for Iraq it is big deal. Every new regime has sought to cement its presence through the national symbol. And this government is no exception. So what do Iraqi's really think and were the media right? And, if you read to the end, find out what design the Iraqi blogger collectively agreed upon.

But first, if you watch no other video blog this week see this one:

Alive in Baghdad continues its essential role, bringing the story of an Iraqi family that had to deal with the kidnap of their child. With the total breakdown of security in Iraq, kidnapping is a problem that faces all Iraqi families - we hear so much in the news yet nothing can bring home the devastation of kidnapping more than hearing directly from the families that were directly affected.

AIB writes:
In 2006 Baghdad became a nightmare, more then 200 being kidnapped every day in Baghdad by gangs and militias. ... Some families travel every morning to the morgue, looking for their fathers, brothers, or other relatives, because in many cases though the family pays a ransom to the kidnapper they never received their loved one, so they go desperately searching for a corpse, and there are many kidnapped people who, to this moment, have never been found.

Well, this time the media has got it so wrong

Bloggers from all sides of the political spectrum were incensed by the way the media reported the new flag. Nibras Kazimi's blood boiled:
I'm happy about the flag change ... but reading the papers this morning still managed to get my blood to boil....

It’s funny how the western media is so ignorant about the history of the flag that had just been changed. The three stars do not refer to the tenets of Baathism, rather they represent a proposed union between Egypt, Syria and Iraq....

The western media is also neglecting to mention that choosing a new flag and national anthem is mandated in Iraq’s new constitution

And Baghdad Treasure was really irritated:
The American news outlets changed the facts about the former flag. They attributed the flag to Saddam Hussein... the flag was basically chosen before Saddam came to power. ...

The other thing is that all American newspapers and websites insisted that the three stars symbolized the three Baath Party goal ... they did not. ... Unsurprisingly, the US media did not have the guts to mention that fact. Instead, they insisted on misinforming their audience by saying these three [stars] represented Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party goals.

One blogger is happy

Nibras Kazimi likes the new flag but not without reservations. He writes:
I am happy about the temporary change to the flag: it opens up the possibility of future, more dramatic changes. I don’t like the Allahu Akbar (‘God is Great’) slogan on it and what its colors represent, but parliament ruled that the change would be temporary and would last a year.

The rest... hate it

Layla Anwar expresses her anger in poetry:
Look what they’ve done to our flag, ma.

They turned it upside down, ma.

Tied it up and threw it to the grounds, ma...

Look what they’ve done, ma...

They have invaded us, occupied us, killed us, destroyed our country, our history, our heritage, our people, humiliated us, pillaged us, plundered us, impoverished us, divided us, tortured us, raped us, imprisoned us, exiled us and now they changed our flag.

Look what they’ve done to us, our country and flag, ma...

Zappys Iraqi Flag
And Zappy is in denial He changed his blog banner and sidebar and wrote:
See the Flag ... on the right? This the flag I was raised under, and thats the only flag I know about.

Nadia n writes:
It's somehow incredibly fitting to me that, contrary to what the articles said, the part that was kept is the only part that actually was Saddam's doing... [the adding of the words "Allahu Akbar"]. What else stopped in 2003: not corruption, persecution, poverty, or killing, so why not keep that little bit consistent too if this really is the flag of Iraq 2008. Is there any better statement of absurdity than to put God's name on all of this bullshit they expect them to swallow? Any better summary of the audacity of the last five years? As if God needs to be associated for these sociopaths and apologists, like he doesn't already have enough working in his name. No wonder he left us.

Baghdad Treasure simply hates the new design:
So the Iraqi people woke up today to find out their flag has been changed! But what a horrible change! The new flag is dull. Just red, white, black and dark green. They should have either changed the whole thing, or kept the original. They removed the stars and left what Saddam has already put! The “Allahu Akbar” inscription. The only thing they did is they changed the handwriting of Saddam into the Kufi calligraphy. The main idea of having “Allahu Akbar” is still there! And who put it? Saddam!! So have they really removed Saddam’s imprint from it?

The legitimacy of the vote was also questioned.Konfused Kid writes, "the Iraqi parliament today approved a new interim design to be approved for one year with a majority of 110 out of 275, 100 MPs were absent from the session." While Salam Adil (that's me) wonders about the politics behind the new design:
This flag represents a humilliating defeat for Kurdish chauvinism - with Turkey breathing down their necks the Kurds have realised they only have two choices. Be a part of a united Iraq or a poor suburb of greater Turkey. They desperately needed a standard that they could hoist to warn off the Turkish army that is massed on the Northern border. Hence the compromise on the new flag. But what a compromise. Gone is any sign of the Kurdish symbol, the yellow sun, but instead they agreed to a flag that bore the Arab and Islamic colours. Oh dear.

And Finally...

Iraqi bloggers had their own fiery discussion on the design of the new flag. Konfused Kid was pleased to report that the discussion ended in a consensus:
we all came to the conclusion that the best Iraqi flag is this:

Grendizer Flag by Konfused Kid

After all, Good old Greendizer is really loved by all Iraqis, even the fake ones, mu baba?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Iraqi Flag - oh dear

I recently went to a talk by a professor from Baghdad University who has been in Iraq under Saddam and under the occupation. He compared times then to now. And what was a recurring theme was just how like Saddam in tactics and all the new sectarian parties are. The only difference is that they are more corrupt and more illiterate.

And in a way this sums up the new flag - the parliament removed a symbol that pre-dated Saddam and simply moulded the bit he did add in their own image. So instead of the "Allahu Akbar" phrase being in Saddam's handwriting it is now in the governing council's collective illiterate handwriting. I mean, for goodness sake, Iraq is home to the best calligraphers in the Arab world, and they made the text look like it an amature scrawl.

But that is not the significant point. This flag represents a humilliating defeat for Kurdish chauvinism - with Turkey breathing down their necks the Kurds have realised they only have two choices. Be a part of a united Iraq or a poor suburb of greater Turkey. They desperately needed a standard that they could hoist to warn off the Turkish army that is massed on the Northern border. Hence the compromise on the new flag. But what a compromise. Gone is any sign of the Kurdish symbol, the yellow sun, but instead they agreed to a flag that bore the Arab and Islamic colours. Oh dear.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Iraq: Another new flag?

A proposal by the Iraqi Parliament to change the flag has started a heated debate among Iraqi bloggers this week. And there is more.. hear news from the front line of the Iraqi resistance, remembering the 1991 war, what happened when the army tried to demolish a bridge in Mosul and the low down on Iraqi satellite TV.

If you read no other post this week read this one:

Last of Iraqis has a chance meeting with members of the Iraqi resistance and reports an original view of recent events in Iraq that you will never read anywhere else. He says "It's strange how a man can know so many things in few hours that he couldn't know through searching and asking for years." Find out how Al-Qaeda rules the prisons, who are in the Awakening movement and what really going on. Before parting Last of Iraqi asks the question on everybody's mind:
"let's imagine that the occupation is gone and you have given the chance to select a president or the members of the government? Do you have someone in mind? Do you have someone that you really trust to take control?"

My two friends laughed and said" that's the sad truth….there is no one" but O answered "there are, they are the leaders of the clean and true resistance" ….. I laughed and said" don't imagine that they will keep their words, look at the history….no politician keeps his words after he wins… majority of them cares about their profit and benefits, so the true solution is in real democracy….which is something so close to impossible in Iraq"

Or this one:

A&E Iraq remembers 17th of January 1991:
oh God, that date, it took me back, to my third year in the primary school, when my mother rushed into our room, and took us in hers.
It was the first time I hear those sounds; those explosions which were enough to rack our small house, I still remember how scared my mother was and how my father tried to calm her down.

Those weeks never left my mind, the horror, the bad news, the color of the sky, the rockets and the darkness.

It was the start of the first Gulf War and A&E Iraq reflects on all the times and events that has gone on since then. He writes:
I can’t forgive the arrogant stupid leader who never thought of the consequences, I can’t forgive all the brothers who never tried to tap on our shoulders, or probably who were pleased that our country was destroyed.

And of course I will never forgive the savages cowboys who never showed mercy, never hesitate killing civilians and tried to respect humanity.

After 17 years, the world has been changed; the ones who were planning to wipe Baghdad from the map are talking about humanity, democracy and rebuilding Iraq!

All the Arabs who paid the bill to destroy the Iraq and kill as much as possible of its people are now against the invasion, and crying for the “assassination” of Saddam.

Breaking Bridges in Mosul:

Winter in Iraq's northern city of Mosul is hard at the best of times but with no fuel, no electricity and temperatures dropping to minus 9 Celsius it can be unbearable. But to make matters worse the army had decided to explode the remains of a damaged bridge one night. Mama and her family had to spend the evening huddled together in one room with all the windows open so that they are not smashed by the shockwaves of the explosion. She writes:
we waited from 8:20 pm till 10 pm and nothing happened... I decided to take a risk and put my boy in his bed( it’s besides mine), “we can’t bear the cold for ever “I said... at 11pm a very loud explosion opened the bedroom’s windows ,we also heard the windows breaking down ,the very cold bluster carried dusts into inside.
Miriam who was just falling asleep started screaming. ...we decided to go back to bed ... But a louder explosion at 12 in the midnight terrified us and caused more damages to the windows and doors leaving the house so cold, dirty and leaving us astonished.

...Next day my daughters had to go to attend their exams after a horrible night ,my husband had to go to work too, but I took the day off and stayed home to try to clean in spite of the frostiness and the tiredness. When my husband returned home he told me that those soldiers were not experts and nothing happened to the bridge residue, only the neighborhood houses were damaged!!!!!!!!!!.

Changing Flags:

2008 proposed flag
The proposed Iraqi flag by the Iraqi Parliament.
A new debate among Iraqi parliamentarians about modifying the Iraqi flag has sprung a heated exchange among bloggers.

Mix Max reports the details:
Today the parliament discussed ... the recommendations (from the Kurds) to change the font to Kufi (Arabic font) and the color of the word “Allah Akbar” from green to yellow. The parliament also discussed a new legislation to make each star of the three centered in the Iraqi flag to represents Peace, Tolerance and Justice, instead of what has been perceived for decades as the three principles of Ba’ath party: Unity, Freedom and Socialism.

Konfused Kid considers the reasons for changing the flag:
I read the history of the Iraqi flag, it is apparently the most unstable flag of the Arab world, changing for four times, and each time, the change coincided with the installation of a new, radically different political system. I... With the realization that the Iraqi flag is not a sacred symbol as I expected it to be, I rationally concluded that, in order to entirely proclaim the beginning of a new chapter, then a new flag reflecting that change in Iraq must also be set in order.
and his own reasons against:
MOST IMPORTANTLY, Any flag, regardless of how beautiful or reflective it is, born under those miserable circumstances Iraq is passing through, will be first and foremost a representation of those conditions before anything else, and thus will be reviled, detached and despised by the very people it is supposed to rally.
And then goes on to propose his own alternatives:

since our envisioning for a new, better chapter of Iraq would be a better representation of its more overlooked constituents, we might tolerate a reflection of [the Kurds] 17% presence on the flag, but not, of course, in the center, what do you think this is? I think a better idea is to put you as footnotes, or margins

One of the interesting symbols I've seen in that site is the 'Babylonian Sun', this might be a good thing to put instead of the three stars... Look a bit too much like Egypt, but then again they all look alike, when I was in Syria I kept thinking why the hell are they hoisting our flag everywhere?!

Over on the Iraqi Blogodrome forum several bloggers had a heated discussion. Following are some chose quotes..

It gets on my nerve every time I remember that the phrase "God is
great" will be yellow!!!

I'm not so attached to the Iraqi flag actually, I've always thought the colours are way too tasteless, and I could not help smelling a rat when Allah Akbar was forcibly worked into it, but I agree yellow makes it even

Having the words "Allah Akbar" in the flag make it worthless to me.
the flag is a symbol that should represent the country, not represent
the beleives of the country. Most Iraqis Like "Grendizer", dont you think we should have his picture in the flag too.

Khalid Jarrar:
a statement of [Allah Akbar] that doesnt belong to any religion in particular but to all religions, and its a beautiful sign that this country actually cares enough about God to at least, at least have his name in their flag, as a symbol, and the statement itself is very humbling

Konfused Kid:
I have no problem with Allahu Akbar, [but] it's not 7aram to
remove it from the flag, ... all those things that I mentioned are
practical matters (Linda already said something about soccer fans not
stepping on it) which should be kept in consideration that's what I
meant. A good flag must be practical too

And Finally:

Mix Max gives us the the essential guide to Iraqi satellite TV. at the last count there were 28 channels out there. He writes:
One might ask the question: does such channels feed the separation of Iraqis taking into the consideration the ethnic and political crisis we have in Iraq? Some argue that this is the consequences of decades of dictatorship, which resulted now in a chaotic atmosphere, even in the media. Others argue that this democracy and every Iraqi have the right to express his opinion and point of view the way he or she sees suitable. But would that enlarge the gap between anarchy and freedom?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Snow in Baghdad

Christmas in Baghdad
Sunshine photographs a Christmas tree at her neighbour's house.

Yes, seriously. For the first time in living memory it actually snowed in Baghdad. And for one Iraqi whose blog is titled: "In Iraq, sex is like snow" the irony is not lost on him. Caesar of Pentra writes:
It's cold over here in Baghdad these days. The electric power is off since the beginning of this year, the tap water is available in days unavailable in others, the mobile network coverage is very bad over my nieghborhood & the landphones are out of reach since only god knows when. But the important thing is the security stituation, which is kinda stabled. But I think as a human being, I have the right to enjoy a comortable lifestyle by providing the main civil services like (electric power, feul, water, land phones... etc.). Anyway, let's enjoy the view of snow and hope that the sex part comes later! ;)

The snow even melted the heart of one of the more hardened Iraqi political bloggers. Iraq Pundit takes time off his usual subjects to write:
Iraqis welcomed this week's rare snowfall in Baghdad with smiles and optimism. It might sound funny, but we do believe it's a good sign. To us, it's like manna from Heaven. Because while it does snow in the north of Iraq, nobody had seen it snow in Baghdad for perhaps 100 years. It's only natural for us to ask what message the skies are sending....

Before you start laughing, let me remind you that we are a superstitious people. And we look for signs in everything.

Even Fayrouz was happy:
Mother Nature looked at Baghdad early Friday morning and said, "Let it snow in Baghdad. Let the faces of the tired and the wary shine with big smiles. Let the skies bring calmness and joy where it's desperately needed."

So, it snowed in Baghdad yesterday morning.

But not all residents of Baghdad were impressed. Shaggy wrote: "I peeked outside and it was indeed snowing. Unfortunately, the snow melted once it touched the ground. Well after that I was so excited that I went back to sleep."


There were dreams for a house

scratched on paper …

at odd moments when the corner

of an available room was free

and the light sufficient.

Dreams for a home

while on the run

from dream-killers

and home-destroyers.

Thoughts of reunion

under a roof

when blood mattered

and distance had drawn too long…

Her scratches as emblematic as

sunshine on sunflowers;

groping for a reality

loudly passing away.

Silently scratched on scrap paper

supported by thick books of thought

that were very different

filled with skeleton letters that danced to

a homesick tune…

Hiding from the moonlight

under eroding bus stop signs

escaping the end

though it loomed

as close as the following second…

Then suddenly out of a sunflower second

the dream-killers

seized the scratches

and ripped the paper house to lonely pieces

shredded all dreams of homecoming

and shot the last 'different' thoughts

back into the skulls of snoozing sunflowers

before the sun could

even dream of a horizon…

Um Ali was an Iraqi communist who was hunted down, detained, tortured and eventually murdered by Saddam’s regime, in the early Eighties. In her run from one hideout to another, escaping Saddams 'gestapo', she dreamed of building a family home.

Peace in Baghdad

The good news is from Baghdad. There is a certain impression of peace and goodwill settling in city that has taken the brunt of the violence that beset Iraq in the past years. I wish I could say the same for Iraq's second city, Mosul. Sunshine writes about her journey to school last week:
I got ready to go to school in such cold weather with no electricity just like everyday, I was waiting for the driver in the hall when HEAVY shooting started, the driver came with 3 girls, grandma didn’t allow me to go out , when shooting almost calmed down, I ran to the car, and the driver drove fast , we drove among so many tanks, the national guards didn’t allow any car to pass the bridge except ours because they saw we were students and we wouldn’t attack them ... as soon as I reached school (at exactly 7:37 pm) a loud explosion happened followed by another few minutes later!! What a great way to start school .. the situation is not good, and many car bombs entered Mosul today, they didn’t explode yet and I hope they won’t, so please don’t forget to pray for us, 2 weeks ago a car exploded at 10 pm, many Iraqis died, poor people they were in their houses, asleep, or having showers, maybe studying, or having dinner, and for no reason an idiot put a car there, killed and injured tens of citizens..
But back in Baghdad, where Sunshine spent her Eid holiday, things were more peaceful:
One of the things that made me happy, is the streets in Baghdad were clean, and in the road junctions there were beautiful gardens with roses and some of them had fountains..

it’s strange, how people in Baghdad slept on one day feeling afraid from the unknown future, and had no idea what’s happening, then in the next day suddenly the killing stopped, the situation calmed down, and the sun shone after long time of darkness, no one knows how nor why .. is it a Truce? or it is a bargain?!!!.

Many shops were destroyed , we saw the shop owners cleaning their shops and fixing them. I felt happy to see how they were re-building their shops and I am looking for the day we’ll re-build Iraq.

And the new peace in Baghdad helps Sahar take stock of the situation:
all the deliberate chaos and violence was like a curtain, keeping everyone so distressed there're incapable of seeing the real issues - the ones for which the war was fought in the first place. ... They should begin to ask questions and demand answers of those whom they elected. Have many lost faith in their religious leaders? Have they had enough of being manipulated by them in the name of their brand of Islam? ... But the government still feels safe, in spite of that. For who will do the serious questioning? The greater majority of the middle class has fled, and the government still has a strong hold upon their own people because of the sectarian fears - the evil seed that was sown after the occupation.

And FInally...

The Muslim Eid al-Ahda celebration came on December 18th. You cannot find a better description of how Iraqis celebrate this holiday than Sunshine's two posts here and here. Most of this can be summed up in one picture:Food Glorious Food