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The Daily Rhino
Monday, December 05, 2005

Crys-tal poppin'
REPRESENTATIVES from all 192 countries that signed the Geneva Conventions are discussing the merits of a new, third emblem for the Red Cross.

I am a big fan of the Red Cross. Me dad worked for them for several years, in both Bangladesh and Indonesia, two Muslim countries. I was about 10 years old when I first heard that he was working for the '
ICRC' and got rather confused. Then I heard about the 'IFRCRCS' and was completely flummoxed. I soon learnt what an intensely complex setup the Red Cross and its various subsidiary/contributory bodies have. However the main thing that struck me was when I saw pictures of my dad's team in Jakarta, it was all crescent moons. Where were the crosses?

It's a reasonably well-known fact that Muslim countries have not been keen on letting little red crosses drive around their land, committing the heinous act of helping people in need. Still only a whippersnapper, I was outraged by this. I thought some firebrand Muslim despot must've made a song and dance in the 80s about the cross in his land and made the Red Cross change their logo. I was a bit hasty in my judgement.

The Red Cross works by having a national version of the organisation in each country. Here we have the British Red Cross, but in 31 of the 181 recognised societies around the world, the national body is called the Red Crescent. The Crescent actually dates back to the Russo-Turkish War (1876-1878), when the Ottoman Empire thought that the cross would alienate its Muslim soldiers. In 1877, Russia became the first country to state that they would recognise the Red Crescent as exactly equivalent to the Red Cross. The ICRC declared that non-Muslim countries would be able to adapt the crescent and be entitled to exactly the same protection and neutrality the cross conferred.

At present, the red cross and the red crescent are the only two recognised emblems that ensure that anyone or anything carrying them is protected by international law, as stipulated in the Geneva Conventions. They must be granted free access to areas where people are in need of help.

So the crescent has been around for yonks. I felt less bothered by it, but still somewhat peeved as the whole objection to the cross was a misnomer. The Red Cross was never a Christian organisation, the emblem is simply a reversal of the Swiss flag, which is a white cross on a red back. It was chosen to honour the Swiss founder, Henry Dunant.

However, one country remained stubborn. Israel. And here's where it all gets sticky.

Many countries have attempted to have their own emblem recognised for use within their borders. The list includes Sri Lanka and India, which both tried to get a red swastika (a Hindu symbol for those that only saw it behind Adolf) approved in the 70s. All these requests were refused as it was (IMO rightly) thought that too many emblems would mean they weren't recognised and protection would be compromised. So why has a third emblem been brought to the table?

Some Arab states will tell you that it is the ICRC bending over to please Israel. Israel's national Red Cross equivalent is called the Magen David Adom Society (MDA) and they have refused to either carry the cross or the crescent for decades. They presently use a red Star of David as their logo, which does NOT have international protection. Bear in mind that the MDA, like all ICRC groups, work all over the world. National relief societies are supposed to use either the cross or the crescent outside their borders, which means that MDA using the star in occupied territories is a bit naughty. Arab states have made it quite clear they will never recognise the Star of David.

So the Red Lozenge was put forward. Then it became the Red Diamond and it's now referred to as the Red Kris-tal, homeboy. This way, the MDA could work with the Palestinian Red Crescent in occupied territories. Surely the world's most boring and innocuous emblem EVAR, right? MDA said "yo!" Palestine said "yeah okay, we'll sort something out when it comes to disputed regions". But Syria said "we need to be involved in the Golan Heights, you infidel punks" so Israel said "Oye ve! We will never work with Syrian bastards!"

All this has thrown a spanner into the negotiations about the Crystal. Masood Khan is the Pakistani ambassador (vroom vroom!) and is trying to unify the 56 countries in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. He wants the Syrian and Israeli national societies to make friends, "can't everyone just get along?"

However it seems likely it will be pushed through. Countries with mixed religious populations, such as India, may well adopt the neutral (= DULL) emblem. I'm hoping the Russians will too, so we can report "The Russian Red Square has left Moscow and arrived in Iraq".


This is a cross-post on Pickled Politics.
 


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Comments:
Red Squares = communists with no life?
 
Ahhaa...very droll. Took me a little while to get!
 
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