Flag of Greenland

The flag of Greenland was adopted on June 21, 1985. The flag is rectangular with two horizontal fields. The top field is white and the bottom is red. The flag features a large circle also divided into two fields and positioned towards the left side of the flag. The top half of the circle is red and the bottom half is white, opposite the flag’s background. In Greenland, the flag is called Erfalasorput, which means “our flag,” or Aappalaatoq, which means “the red.”

The design and colors of the flag reflect Greenland’s unique landscape. The white field, for example, represents the ice cap and glaciers that cover most of the island. The red field represents the ocean. The white part of the circle symbolizes the icebergs and pack ice, and the red part of the circle symbolizes the fjords. The overall design also depicts the sun setting on the horizon, reflecting its light on the sea. Finally, the colors match the Danish flag, the Dannebrog, a symbolic statement of Greenland’s existence as an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark.

Discussion about developing an authentic flag of Greenland began in 1973. Five enthusiastic Greenlanders proposed a green, white, and blue flag that they thought would be appropriate for their country’s banner. Still other Greenlanders developed ideas for a distinctive country flag, and in 1974, a Greenland newspaper published eleven of these proposed flag designs. Although the newspaper asked its readers to vote for their favorite flag, all except for one of the flags featured the Nordic cross, and the majority of the readers favored the traditional Dannebrog (flag of Denmark).

Efforts to develop a flag of Greenland stalled until 1978, when Denmark declared Greenland an autonomous country. Greenland’s government called for flag proposals, and received an overwhelming 555 designs. Despite the hundreds of proposed designs, Greenland’s flag committee could not agree on a flag and asked Greenlanders for more proposals. Finally, in 1985, Greenland adopted its current flag, designed by native Greenlander Thue Christiansen. Christiansen’s design won by a narrow margin over a flag designed by Sven Tito Achen, featuring a white Nordic Cross in front of a green background.

Flag of Bahrain

The flag of Bahrain has made appearances in the news frequently this year as demonstrators wear and wave the flag in protest. Although protests in Bahrain have been occurring for the last ten years, demonstrations have become more frequent and forceful in the last few months.

Bahrain is one of many countries in the Middle East and North Africa that has been overcome by protests. In Bahrain, protestors are rallying in regard to the systematic discrimination of the Shia majority by the ruling Sunni minority. Despite a policy enacted in 2002 that introduced a number of reforms, including parliamentary elections, Shias still face tough inequalities, including limited access to government jobs. To make matters worse, the ruling Khalifa family has thwarted the parliament’s power and Bahrain voting districts are gerrymandered to keep Shia groups in the minority.

If you’re following the protests in Bahrain, you may have seen demonstrators wearing or waving the flag of Bahrain. The flag of Bahrain is a rectangular banner. The left side of the flag is white and the right side is red. Instead of a straight line dividing the red and white sections of the flag, however, the flag of Bahrain includes five white triangles, making a serrated divide between the two fields.

Like many Middle Eastern, North African, and Persian Gulf countries, the colors of Bahrain’s flag pay homage to Islam, the country’s main religion. The five white triangles represent the five pillars of Islam:

1.    Shahada: monotheism and accepting Mohammed as God’s messenger
2.    Salat: a set of five Islamic prayers
3.    Sawm: three types of fasting
4.    Zakat: alms, or charitable giving
5.    Hajj: a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca

The original flag of Bahrain was a solid red banner. In 1820, when Bahrain and the United Kingdom signed a peace treaty, Bahrain added a white stripe to the flag. This flag was used until 1932 when Bahrain added a serrated line to its flag to make its flag unique from its other Persian Gulf neighbors. In 1972, the flag’s serrated line was reduced from 28 to eight points, and in 2002, the current five-point flag was adopted and remains in use through the Bahrain protests.

“Bahraini protesters demand end of Khalifa regime,” Tehran Times, February 26, 2011. http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=236380.
Roula Khalaf, “Q&A: Bahrain Protests,” Financial Times, March 15, 2011. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/547d0a42-4f1a-11e0-9c25-00144feab49a.html#axzz1Gt6ATOYK.

Flag of California

The flag of the state of California was adopted on April 30, 1911.  It is a rectangular flag with a white background.  The flag is known as the “Bear Flag” because it features a bear on a patch of grass in the center of the flag.  Above the bear image, in the upper left corner is a red lone star.  Below the bear reads “California Republic” and a red horizontal stripe lines the bottom edge of the flag.

The Bear Flag’s origins date back to 1846, when California was part of Mexico and known as Alta California.  Tensions were building between Mexicans and Americans in Alta California as Americans settlers began moving in masses to the region.  Americans residing in California became increasingly concerned that Mexican government officials would act against them.

Tensions came to a peak in 1846 when U.S. explorer John C. Fremont and a group of about sixty men snuck into Mexico and built a fort on Gavilan Peak in March 1846. Fremont eventually retreated, leaving California for a few months, during which the United States declared war on Mexico.

Fremont returned to California in June 1846, and on June 10, he and a small group of Americans living in the San Francisco Bay area captured Mexican Lieutenant Francisco Arce and his horses. The American insurgents then traveled to Sonoma, gathering several more Americans to participate on their way, seized control of the area, and took several Mexican men as prisoners.  During this time, the American insurgents created the “Bear Flag” as a banner for their operation and began calling themselves the “Bear Flaggers.” The Bear Flag revolt ended on July 9, 1846 when a U.S. flag was raised in Sonoma. California officially became part of the United States in 1850.

The original version of the bear flag was slightly different than the current flag.  The white background and red stripe along the bottom of the flag were present in the original version.  The red lone star in the upper left corner is significantly larger on the original flag.  The bear is orange in the original version and is placed in the upper region of the flag without a patch of grass underneath.  “California Republic” appears higher on the flag in the original version.

The Bear Flag continued to be used by native Californians, particularly by the Native Sons and Native Daughters of the Golden West (NSGW and NDGW, respectively). As a result of their advocacy for the Bear Flag to be adopted as California’s first State Flag, the flag became official in 1911.

Libya’s Protest Flag

Since January, demonstrators have been protesting the Libyan government leaders and their policies. Protests are related to a variety of important issues, including housing, unemployment, human rights, and governmental corruption. Demonstrations began in January when protesters broke into and occupied a government housing project that was experience delays in development.

Protests escalated in mid-February after Libyan human rights activist Fathi Terbil was arrested. As demonstrations broke out, the Libyan government began taking violent measures, including firing guns from helicopters into crowds of anti-government protesters. On February 21, after stealing weapons from Libyan security buildings, protesters marched to the courthouse, lowered the current Libyan flag and raised the old flag of the Kingdom of Libya.

Protests have continued through February and the flag of the Kingdom of Libya has become an important symbol of these demonstrations. On February 24, for example, protesters seized control of Tobruk and celebrated by waving the old Libyan flag.

The situation in Libya continues to change by the hour. World leaders are encouraging Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi to abdicate his power as the opposition organizes an interim government. The United States is offering assistance to the Libyan opposition and the United Nations is imposing sanctions on the country’s government, warning that there will be consequences for Gadhafi.

The flag that protesters have been using during these recent demonstrations is the flag of the Kingdom of Libya. The flag was adopted in 1951, when Libya gained independence from Italy. It was used until 1969, when a military coup lead by Libya’s current ruler Muammar Gadhafi, overthrew the Libyan monarchy and declared the country the Libyan Arab Republic.

The flag is rectangular with three stripes. A red stripe lines the top of the flag and a green stripe lines the bottom. The black stripe in the center of the flag is twice as wide as the green and red stripes. In the center of the flag is the white crescent and star that is used on the flags of many Islamic nations around the world. The black background and white crescent has its roots in the flag of the Senussi dynasty, of which Libya’s king during the 1950s and 60s was a part. The red stripe represents Fezzan, the southwestern region of Libya and also symbolizes the bloodshed by the Libyan people during the quest for independence. The green stripe pays homage to the green flag of the Libyan province Tripolitania and symbolizes prosperity.

“Recap of developments in the Middle East, North Africa,” Inquirer Politics, February 27, 2011. http://politics.inquirer.net/politics/view/20110228-322614/Recap-of-developments-in-Middle-East-North-Africa.
“Unrest in the Middle East and Africa—country by country,” CNN, February 27, 2011. http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/02/27/mideast.africa.unrest/.