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About: New symbol in the blue-light-milieu: after Red Cross and Red Crescent comes the Red Crystal
Pri: Nova protekta simbolo por la Ruĝa Kruco: ruĝa kristalo
Published, Aperis: d’Lëtzebuerger Land, January 18, 2005

In addition to the Red Cross and Red Crescent, there will soon be another protective symbol

A white hole, framed by a red square, which stands on a corner against a white background: this is how humanity will be symbolized in times of war in the future. After decades of negotiations, countless consultations, resolutions, meetings and visibility tests, a conference in Geneva is expected to include a new badge for rescue workers in international law at the end of October. What looks like occupational therapy for diplomats can have serious consequences: The labeling of paramedics, ambulances and hospitals is a matter of life and death in crisis areas.

In the 19th century the rescuers were a different color in every army: white with the Austrians, red with the French, yellow with the Spaniards, black elsewhere ... The soldiers no longer had a clear view and often even shot their own nurses overboard. Since it was founded by the Geneva Convention of 1864, the Red Cross has therefore attached great importance to a uniform, easily recognizable and universally respected emblem, namely a “white banner with a purple cross”.

That worked as long as only Europeans participated in the humanitarian movement. In 1876, however, the Ottoman Empire introduced the Red Crescent. The Swiss government, with which the Geneva Treaties are deposited, stated in vain that the Red Cross had nothing to do with religion, but was merely a "reversal" of the Swiss flag in honor of the founder Henry Dunant. The Turks insisted that the cross was an “insult to Muslims”.

In 1929, the signatory states to the Geneva Convention accepted the Red Crescent and Red Lion, which Persia had used in World War I - and stipulated that there should be no other symbols. Thailand bowed down and renounced its Red Flame, Afghanistan gave up its Red Mosque.

After the Second World War, the proposals of Holland (a new emblem for everyone) and Burma (each country should label as it wants) failed. The 1949 convention, which is still valid today, repeats the status of 1929: cross, crescent, lion and nothing else. The lion is no longer needed, but Iran reserves the right to replace the crescent moon with it.

The Israelis are most dissatisfied with this: They insist on the red Star of David. That is why their rescue company is not recognized internationally and only has observer status at the ICRC in Geneva - like the Red Crescent of the stateless Palestinians. Kazakhstan and Eritrea also have difficulties, who do not want to decide and would like to use the crescent moon and cross at the same time.

Switzerland has developed a neutral symbol for these cases. It should be called “Red Crystal” so that not only the emblem but also its name is completely free of national, political, religious or ethnic meanings. Each country should be able to insert additional symbols in the middle of the diamond, such as a small Star of David. The cross and crescent moon should continue to be used.

Actually, the new additional protocol to the Geneva Convention should have been signed as early as 2000 - the second Palestinian intifada prevented any compromise. In support of Israel, the US Red Cross has since withheld $ 5 million a year in contributions to the Geneva Secretariat, around a quarter of the administrative budget, and the US government threatens to make further cuts.

Now there is a new attempt. In mid-September, the majority of the 192 signatory states thought they could live with the proposal. 23 Islamic countries declared that the time was "not yet ripe", but they have given in - otherwise Switzerland would hardly officially announce a new Red Cross Crescent Conference. In any case, India and Sri Lanka are already looking forward to the red crystal: They want to provide it with a small sun symbol, also known as the "swastika".

Martin Ebner

More stories from the colorful world of international organizations:
- European Union: Six thousand kilos of mail for Europe
- UNPO: lobby for overlooked peoples



Photo: Red Cross office in Stockholm, Sweden. Oficejo de Ruĝa Kruco en Stockholm, Svedujo. But not a diamond? Red Cross office in Stockholm, Sweden

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