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Iraq: Contest for New National Emblems

Last modified: 2005-08-06 by joe mcmillan
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[Iraq] by Pascal Gross and Graham Bartram

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Contest to Design New Iraqi Emblems

Reuters/Baghdad - Iraq has launched a competition to search for a new flag and national anthem to distance the country from the legacy of Saddam Hussein.

The closing date for the competitions is January 15, 2005, and a committee made up of the culture minister, artists and intellectuals will select the winning submissions.

"The old flag is linked to the regime of Saddam Hussein," Culture Minister Mofeed al-Jazaeri said. "A lot of people don't want to keep it," he told Reuters.

Iraq's flag has already undergone some minor design changes since United States-led forces toppled Saddam in 2003. The phrase, "God is Great", which first appeared on the flag in Saddam's handwriting after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, has been redesigned in a traditional Iraqi Kufic Arabic font.

But proposals to completely overhaul the flag have already sparked controversy. A predominantly blue and white design which appeared in Iraqi newspapers earlier this year sparked outrage in Arab media because the colour scheme resembled that of the Israeli flag. The red, green, black and white of Iraq's current flag are found in most of the flags of other Arab countries.

"The design must be in harmony with the aspirations of the new democratic Iraq," Jazaeri said.

It should also reflect the unity of ethnic groups, cultures and religions in Iraq, which is made up of Shi'a and Sunni Arabs, Shi'a and Sunni Kurds, Christian Assyrians and Turkmen. Most of those groups were oppressed by Saddam. Jazaeri said the new national anthem should symbolise tolerance and ethnic and intellectual diversity.

"The lyrics must be simple in form and acceptable in their ideas so that all Iraqis can repeat them, regardless of their ethnicity, politics, age and career," the culture ministry said in the competition guidelines. The words should be in Arabic - the native tongue of the majority in Iraq, where Kurdish, Syriac and Turkic languages are also spoken.

A third contest will deliver a new national emblem to replace the standing falcon used under Saddam.

The winning submissions are to be approved by Iraq's parliament due to be elected in January 2005."

Located by "Odengatan," 30 September 2004