Given that the Iraqi parliament has not agreed on a new national anthem, Adel Najman, an Iraqi musician living in Australia, decided to compose music for the poem “Salam Ala Hadabat al-Iraq” ("Peace on the Hills of Iraq") by the late poet Muhammad Mahdi al-Jawahiri. It's one of the three poems that have been competing for the national anthem for years in the Iraqi parliament.
Najman told Al-Monitor by phone from Australia: “After the [political] dispute impeded the selection of a national anthem, I decided not to wait any longer and I started composing music for Jawahiri’s poem. We performed it with a group of Iraqi guys in Australia, while a foreign band played the music. Then, we presented it to the Iraqi Embassy in Canberra.”
Najman confirmed that he did not refer to any official party when he chose this poem to be the national anthem. Then, he took the initiative to compose music for the poem and published it online.
“I liked the words of the poem because it talks about peace, which is what we need to restore Iraq to its normal situation,” he explained.
This emigrant musician’s decision to compose an anthem has made many Iraqis wonder why the political leaders have not succeeded in making the necessary shifts to new national symbols, although more than a decade has passed since the fall of the dictatorship. National symbols such as the flag and the national anthem top the list, alongside other laws that should be ratified to achieve the transition to democracy.
After the use of the former anthem “Ard al-Rafidin” ("Mesopotamia") was suspended, the anthem “Mawtini” ("My Homeland") was temporarily used until 2003, awaiting a substitute that gets the parliament’s approval. The last parliamentary term did not produce an agreement, and the current one, which is almost over, has not settled the political disagreements. These disputes led to the cancelation of the last agreement that was within reach when the draft law for the national anthem was proposed last summer.
It is obvious that the disputes, which need time to be resolved, are mostly sectarian in nature. However, the approval of the national anthem is related to the consensus about how to contain national representation in Iraq. The essential point of dispute is that non-Arab components are asking that the national anthem include verses in their own languages.
Kurdistan Alliance member of parliament Hamid Bafi told Al-Monitor, “Parties that do not believe in change impeded the approval of the national anthem, although the Iraqi constitution is clear on this point.
“Toward the end of the former regime's era, a philosophy stating that Iraq is the land of one nationalist affiliation and one leader was in place. This has changed today, as the constitution indicates that Iraq is pluralistic in terms of nationalist affiliations, sects and confessions. The constitution also emphasizes the importance of mentioning all these components in the national anthem and the flag. Yet, some parties still insist on a strict centralized system, thus hampering the laws that grant the Iraqi citizen his rights and freedoms.”
According to Article 12 of the constitution, “The flag, national anthem and emblem of Iraq shall be fixed by law in a way that represents the components of the Iraqi people.”
State of Law Coalition parliament member Hassan al-Yassiri blamed the suspension of the national anthem project on “a misinterpretation of the relevant constitutional article.”
Yassiri told Al-Monitor, “The council was about to vote in favor of the anthem, but a dispute between the Kurdish Alliance MPs and the MPs of other blocs occurred regarding drafting some verses of the national anthem in Kurdish. The dispute pushed the representatives of the Turkmen to ask for the addition of verses in their language, too.”
Yassiri, who used to occupy the position of adviser to the Constitution Drafting Committee, explained, “The constitutional requirement for the anthem to symbolically unite all components of the Iraqi people does not mean using their language. There is a huge difference between the national anthem and the official language. Some are mixing both. They think that the anthem is not national unless it is written in several languages.”
He also noted that the anthem is supposed to reflect the inclinations of Iraqi society and indicate variety through mentioning the country’s cultures and varied geographical features. “We find this in the three nominated poems,” Yassiri added.
The blunder in not agreeing on the basics reflects, in essence, the inability of the lawmakers in Iraq to set the details that the government needs in its transition from a dictatorship to a democracy.
There are no indications that show it is possible to determine the national symbols before April 2014. This is what is abnormal about the situation, knowing that in April the current parliamentary term ends. This means that the temporary national symbols will stand their ground, although a lot of time has passed since the change in Iraq.