Syria: The Flag Debacle

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12.

The dispute over the Syrian flag started the moment revolution forces chose it as their rebellion symbol. It opened a debate between government supporters, who are now using the current Syrian Flag as their social media profiles, and those opposing the Syrian regime, who are flying the Syrian flag at its independence, at the end of the French mandate, which was first used in 1932.

On Dahnon blog, Khaled Mashriki weighs in:

بين تسميتي علم الاستقلال وعلم الانتداب، تبرز واحدة من أهم نقاط الخلاف السوري السوري كإحدى “الحقائق” المتنازع عليها بين السوريين ضمن جدلية (الوطنية – الخيانة) المتكرسة في فكر وثقافة الملايين منهم (أي السوريين) اليوم.
Between the naming of both the independence flag and the mandate flag we see one of the main points of contention in the Syrian-Syrian conflict. It is one of the ‘facts’ being disputed between the Syrians under the debate on nationalism and treason, which is embedded in the thought and culture of millions of Syrians today.

Mashriki adds:

لايُعلم تماما متى حمل أول متظاهر العلم الأخضر، لكنه حُمل رسمياً لأول مرة في في الحراك السوري في أنطاليا بتركيا من قبل بعض المشاركين في أول مؤتمر لبعض المعارضة بتاريخ 01-06-2011. مؤتمر أثار من الجدل ماأثار ولم تحضره المعارضة في الداخل كما قاطعه كثيرون من معارضة الخارج من بينهم برهان غليون نفسه، فيما حضره الإخوان المسلمون بصفة مراقب، قبل أن يعقدوا في اليوم التالي مؤتمرا دعوا إليه هم أنفسهم في بروكسل.
No one exactly knows when the first time a protestor carried the green flag but it was officially raised for the first time in the Syrian movement in Antalya, Turkey, by some of the participants in the first conference of opposition on June 1, 2011. The conference sparked controversy and wasn't attended by opposition inside Syria and boycotted by many opposition figures abroad, including Burhan Ghalioun himself, while it was attended by the Muslim Brotherhood as an observer. The following day, they [Syrian MB] held a conference themselves in Brussels.

What do the flags symbolise?

The blog Damascus Tribune illustrates the history of the the Syrian flag:

علم الاستقلال
العلم الذي رُفع في سماء سورية في 17 نيسان من عام 1946 بعد جلاء الفرنسيين عن الوطن واستمر حتى الوحدة بين سورية ومصر. اعتمد شكل هذا العلم وألوانه في المادة السادسة من الفصل الأول للدستور الصادر عن الجمعية التأسيسيّة السورية في 5 أيلول عام 1950 كما ورد حرفياً في دستور عام 1930، ونُشر في الجريدة الرسمية العدد 45 تاريخ 7 أيلول 1950……جاء تصميم العلم السوري غنياً برموز لونية، وهي تماثل ألوان علم الثورة العربية الكبرى، فالأخضر للإسلام عموماً، والأبيض للأمويين، والأسود للعباسيين، والنجوم الحمر للعلياء والبطولة ودماء الشهداء.

The independence Flag:
It is the flag raised in Syria's sky on April 17, 1946, after the departure of the French and continued to be used until the unity between Syria and Egypt. The shape and colors of the flag have been adopted in article VI of the first chapter of the constitution adopted by the Syrian constituent assembly on September 5, 1950, as stated literally in the Constitution of 1930, and published in the Official Gazette No. 45, dated September 7, 1950….. The Syrian flag design was rich in color codes, which is similar to the colors of flag of the Great Arab Revolt. It has green for Islam in general, and white symbolises the the Umayyads, and black for the Abbasids. The red stars reflect superiority, heroism and the blood of the martyrs.

Syrian flag raised after last French soldier has departed Syria on April 17, 1946. The Photo from Damascus Tribune blog (CC BY 2.0).

On the other hand, Dr Assad Abu Khalil, from the Angry Arab News Service blog, defended the use of the current flag in a post entitled Syrian flag and bigotry toward Alawites. He writes:

….should be reminded that the so-called “independence flag” was actually adopted in the 1930's, well before independence. Syrian state TV is actually more correct when it describes it as the “French occupation flag”, because that is what it really is. Also, the current flag of Syria is not the Baathist flag. It is the United Arab Republic flag. Just a fundamental history lesson.

Maysaloon says the independence flag refers to a new era that carries hope to Syrians by saying:

Everything about this flag, the background of the movement that made it a symbol for Syria, and the figures that fought for it to become so, is steeped in principles rooted in a hope for a better country that is free and good for all its people. Should the Syrian people decide one day to once again make this flag Syria's official flag, then it is not because the current flag is any less legitimate, but because the independence flag represents that hope. To describe it flippantly as a “colonial” flag is an insult.

The flag is now hoisted as the Syrian “Revolution Flag” and is displayed in many occasions around the world. It was present during the Egyptian Revolution at protests in Tahrir Square staged in support of Syrian protesters:

Syrian flag independence decorated Tahrir Square in Cairo.

The Syrian flag of independence decorated Tahrir Square in Cairo. The photo from Syria Matters Blog. (CC BY 2.0)

Also Hamdyarabweb blog posted a photograph which shows the Turkish flag besides the Syrian independence flag. The comment reads:

#شبكة_خبر: تركيا ترفع علم الاستقلال السوري وتتجاهل النظام السوري بالكامل في لافتة للعالم كله ودرس جديد من تركيا للعالم العربي
Turkey raises the Syrian independence flag and completely ignores the Syrian regime in a gesture for the whole world and a new lesson from Turkey to the Arab world
Syrian independence Flag in Turkey

Syrian independence Flag in Turkey. Photo from Hamdyarabweb blog. (CC BY 2.0)

And it hangs off Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

Syrian flag hangs off of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Photo from See Syria Blog. (CC BY 2.0)

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12.

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