Swiss businessman Henry Dunant established the Red Cross in 1863. He was moved by the suffering of the wounded in the 1859 Battle of Solferino, Italy. To care for the injured, he endeavored to create an international society of volunteers, establishing it in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1863. The now-iconic red cross flag is an inversion of the Swiss flag’s colors, with a red cross on a white backdrop.

From 1875 to 1878, a wave of rebellions broke out against the Ottoman Empire in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, and Montenegro. The Red Cross intervened in these conflicts, but many Muslim soldiers were intimidated by the sight of Doctors dressed in what they assumed was a Christian cross. The Red Crescent was established in Muslim nations, using the Islamic symbol of the crescent moon to put people at ease. However, the Persians were put off by this as the crescent featured on the flag of their old enemies, the Ottomans. The Red Lion was adopted as the organization’s symbol in Persia in 1923.

Artist: Calum O’Fee

Three people holding up different 'Red Cross' flags

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Credit: Calum O’Fee and Open Past

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