Shoe slapping in Iraq.
April 10, 2003 9:10 PM   Subscribe

The culture of a society, is largely invisable to it's inhabitants. While the bigger things in our own cultures are easily identifiable, such as food, customs and religion. More unique things like hitting a statue or a picture of Saddam with a shoe, are not. Symbolism is usually subtle and can easily be missed or misinterpreted by people from other cultures. This is a great article from BBC WORLD NEWS which explains some of the symbolism we're seeing in the Iraqi gatherings.
posted by Civa (2 comments total)
The shoe thing was reflected in the infamous mural of George H.W. Bush in the lobby of the al-Rashid Hotel. [alternate] The idea was that you couldn't enter the place without walking on his face. Word had it that hotel workers discreetly covered it with a carpet in recent weeks (but then, this time around, the Palestine Meridian became the locus of press attention, probably because of the rumors of a bunker underneath the al-Rashid).

Here are the flags of modern Iraq: I'm almost certain I caught a glimpse of a royalty-era flag in some "background footage". Also, a flag of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. And SCIRI, the Iranian-backed Shi'a opposition, uses some sort of red flag for its Badr Brigades.

There is interesting symbology behind the bombastic monuments of Baghdad, several to the war with Iran. The Coalition has carefully avoided damaging these which are seen as national patrimony rather than symbols of the regime -- although the crossed swords have hands which were modeled after a photograph of Saddam. Also, much of Saddam-era architecture deliberately evokes symbols of Mesopotamian history such as ziggurats and Saladin.

While we're at it, you may see Iraqi women wearing the chador, hijab, or veil. Unlike the burqa, they do not cover the face. But in secular Iraq women have the right to education and jobs, and urban women may well dress in a modest skirt and make-up. The right to tear off the burqa was not a motivating factor here, so don't expect that to change; indeed, religious expression may increase with more freedom. This could lead to a new round of conflict.

Oh, and watch out for Bert.
posted by dhartung at 10:09 PM on April 10, 2003

I find cultural symbolism very interesting. Thanks for posting these links.
posted by Juicylicious at 8:47 AM on April 11, 2003

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