This has been the summer of flags. Flags have been everywhere and in most places they have been flying or burning as the sign of protest. The efforts by the American rightwing nuts and fascists to criminalize the burning of the American flag once again flagged in the Congress and so this quintessentially American form of protest lives on everywhere!
From Cairo to the Philippines, no one could care less about American sensitivity when throngs of ugly-ass jihadists from one end of the world to the other set fire to Old Glory and/or the Star of David for a few moments of pyromaniacal joy and free expression of rage. Ironically, if this form of expression ever involved their own national flag they would be taken to the shed and flogged!
The summer began with the prominence of the Palestinian flag waving and filling the void left by the retreating Israeli force from Gaza a year earlier, only for the Star of David to come rushing back into Gaza at the sign of slightest Hamas mischief. The yellow Hezbollah banner flew high and proud in the face of the Israeli standard of aggression in southern Lebanon (and among sympathizers in Iraq, Iran, Syria and elsewhere), eclipsing the hoity-toity good-for-nothing national Lebanese flag. Sorry, it is not a good-for-nothing flag; it is still a tourism symbol of sorts pointing the way to some of the best beaches on the Mediterranean!
The Iraqi flag, too, flew high and mighty – but with little purpose. I do not understand why does the Bush Administration think that it can promote democracy in the Middle East and still support the “God is Great” logo on the Iraqi flag. Why does America tolerate the inscription on the Saudi flag? I feel like saying, “Yo, Hajji, Mighty Mouse, Mr. Bush, in case you did not know, one way to promote democracy in Iraq is through secular nationalism. No secular nationalism, no democracy. How do you think the American democracy evolved? By separation of church and state, no?”
I also would like to ask Mighty Mouse Bush, “Yo, Hajji, do you know why America is in such a state of funk? It is because pluralism and secularism are on the defensive and the Christian fundamentalists are pushing the place into a kind of theofascism and you, el presidente, are doing the devil’s own work when you fall in the same trap that you are trying to discredit elsewhere.” At the present rate, the ultimate casualty of Bush’s war on Islamofascism will be the American economy and secular democracy. Like every other defunct “ism” that has proved dysfunctional, Islamofascim too will die from within – Mighty Mouse should be patient.
Finally, in northern Iraq someone in position of Kurdish leadership found the balls to take down the Iraqi flag and hoist the Kurdish flag. This signals the symbolic demise of the Iraqi state as we know it. The republic of Kurdistan will be emerging as the necessary result of Iraqi politics than any concerted international design by Israel to tickle Iran or Syria. Neither the Sunni nor the Shiites in Iraq’s governing elite like the notion of an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, regardless of the “federalism” promised in the Iraqi constitution..
The least relevant flag this season has been the UN flag – you know, the sky-blue flag with some sort of graphics of world unity, peace and hope! In southern Lebanon, the Hezbollah used the UN flag as cover, and the Israelis bombed the crap out of the outpost that flew it. Now they are about to assemble a bunch of soldiers from an unemployed economies of the world, add a few Europeans to give it color, and send the bunch into southern Lebanon to sit around and do nothing.
In the Sudan — the UNO cannot get the Sudanese government to stop the civil strife in Darfur. Heck, the UNO cannot even get its troops into the Sudan without Sudanese permission. Yet, the Security Council has no problems issuing one resolution after another demanding this and that of other member states! I guess Israel and the Sudan are off limits to the UN’s bullying! And in Rwanda and Yugoslavia – heh! The various UN tribunals dealing with butchers and mass murderers have turned into a fucking joke!
The best use of the UN flag this season: arrival of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan on the tarmac in Tehran. But, as a general proposition, I think if the UN’s overall inefficacy lingers a little longer, the Secretary-General ought to make zereshk the organization’s official emblem. Hey, it is not for me to say – but it seems that the UN blue is got the blues!
This has also been the summer of the “Iranian” flags. On the one hand there is the “Allah” flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I do not like this flag, because it stands for theocracy – not of God (Theo) himself but by lesser beings pretending to be signs of god.
The reports of the shenanigans of the Iranian leaders this summer made the evening news often with the name of the country framed against the backdrop of the calligraphically indecipherable ornamentation around the inside borders of the green and red stripes. This flag is borne by three types of Iranians: (a) the folks who truly like and support this republic; (b) the folks who, without an emotional attachment, have assumed the colors of the majority (hamrang-e jamaat shodan) as historically inevitable; and (c) the folks who are ignorant, period (az khoda bikhabar), who think this, that is, is all that there has ever been to this country. This last group includes the ordinary young folk in Iran who think the Shah did nothing good or right and that Mossadeq was a democratically-elected prime minister and that Mossadeq nationalized the oil – as if it was not the Shah who signed the oil nationalization bill into law or that it was not the Shah who appointed Mossadeq by his royal whim to be prime minister (twice, and every time with disastrous consequences for the country).
Viewing the World Cup proceedings on television this summer, I believe, the Iranian flag that was most visible in Germany was the current regime’s Allah-ollahi colors. There three other Iranian flags too. One interesting version had the horizontal green, white and red stripes with the name IRAN stenciled on the middle white stripe. Politically, I do not know what this meant to say. What I learned form it is that one could buy an Italian flag, turn in about and write IRAN on it and voila there was an unambiguous and loud declaration of the highest from of secular patriotism. IIRAN. THIS IS THE FLAG OF IRAN. I AM AN IRANIAN. And, if you do not like it, eat my shorts! Another type was just the three stripes with no motif in the middle.
The fourth type was the Iranian flag that I grew up – its middle stripe is inhabited not by God or IRAN but by the depiction of a lion at sunrise, looking at me, proudly holding a sword. This flag too was on view during the World Cup in Germany. Many Iranian fans in the streets and venues close to the games displayed it with great verve and passion and – in some instances – they engaged in a kind of sing-along duals with Iranians who were carrying the Allah-ollahi flag of the IRI. If you had looked carefully at the proceedings of the Iranian games at the World Cup, however, you would have noted that the Lion-and-Sun Iranian flag was not as great in number as the other three forms. Why?
Why? I will tell you why! German secular fascism conspired with the FIFA Gestapo and the Iranian theofascists to deprive the Iranian fans from entering the stadia with their Lion-and-Sun flags. That is why! I know this second hand from a cousin and this is how it went down.
In his luggage, this cousin carried a Lion-and-Sun flag that he was going to wave at the Iran games. The Iranian government considers this flag an implement of terrorism, as the people who adhere to it are uniformly branded as corrupters on earth, nay-ers, anti-revolutionaries, and outright non-Iranians — all genetically wanting of God’s good grace!
Anyway, my cousin gets to Germany, went to his first game and lost his flag. At the entrance to the venue, the FIFA Gestapo searched his backpack, pulled out the flag, unfolded it and then instructed him to leave it in a special area with other contraband, but which he could pick up later on his way out from the match! He protested the confiscation and was told that it was a FIFA regulation that Iranian flags of that variety not be allowed into the stadium.
Dejected by this encounter, my cousin made it into an area between the outer gate and the seats. There he observed a group of Iranians being in the middle of a heated argument with FIFA agents and German police. He approached one of the quiet Iranians (such rarity, indeed!) and asked about the ordeal. It turned out that a group of Iranians had managed to bring into the stadium very long and broad individual stripes of cloth in the colors green, white and red and one among the dozen or so was carrying the Lion-and-Sun insignia. When they had gotten to their seats, they had assembled the flag from these components and put on quite a show. The IRI press box or someone informed security that the forbidden flag was making some waves and so the FIFA Gestapo and German police were send to put an end to this.
It turned out, according to my cousin, FIFA agents, backed by German police, were doing what the IRI had demanded of FIFA ahead of the games – that there be no Lion-and-Sun flag at the games. If this is true, then shame on the German government for providing the muscle behind such a fascistic conduct by FIFA. Here is the IRI that has denied the holocaust (a crime under German law) and then it goes along with the demand of a foreign regime to stifle the expression of the Iranian fans with a flag of their choice. Of FIFA I did not expect differently. Of Germany, which is rumored to be a civilized place, I expected more.
About Guive Mirfendereski is a professorial lecturer in international relations and law and is the principal artisan at trapworks.com. Born in Tehran in 1952, he is a graduate of Georgetown University's College of Arts and Sciences (BA), Tufts University's Fletcher School (PhD, MALD, MA) and Boston College Law School (JD). He is the author of A Diplomatic History of the Caspian Sea>>> Features in iranian.com