Red Cross, Crescent and Crystal: what’s in a humanitarian emblem?

GENEVA, June 18, 2006 (AFP) – The Red Cross emblem was the brainchild of the Swiss founders of the international humanitarian movement born in 1864. They simply reversed the white cross on a red background which make up Switzerland’s flag, a symbol of neutrality in a Europe which was regularly ravaged by conflict.

However, during the Russo-Turkish war of 1876-1878 the Ottoman Empire made it known that ambulances displaying a cross offended Muslim soldiers.

The Red Crescent was created as a result, although it did not gain formal recognition under the Geneva Conventions until 1929.

The same year, Iran won the right to use its own historical Persian imperial symbol, a red lion and star.

It was dropped in favour of the crescent after the country’s Islamic revolution in 1979.

The issue of the Magen David Adom (MDA, or Red Star of David), arose with the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948.

A conference the following year rejected the MDA’s emblem because it did not conform with the rules, blocking its entry into the movement.

A meeting called to try to resolve the deadlock in 2000 was cancelled amid mounting tensions in t