White flag: Wikis

  
  
  

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A white flag

White flags have had different meanings throughout history and depending on the locale.

Contents

Flag of temporary truce in order to parlé (negotiate)

The white flag is an internationally recognized protective sign of truce or ceasefire, and request for negotiation. It is also used to symbolize surrender, since it is often the weaker military party which requests negotiation. A white flag signifies to all that an approaching negotiator is unarmed, with an intent to surrender or a desire to communicate. Persons carrying or waving a white flag are not to be fired upon, nor are they allowed to open fire. The use of the flag to surrender is included in the Geneva Conventions.

The improper use of a white flag is forbidden by the rules of war and constitutes a war crime of perfidy. There have been numerous reported cases of such behaviour in conflicts, such as fighters using white flags as a ruse to approach and attack enemies, or killings of fighters attempting to surrender by carrying white flags. Many times since the weaker party is in a decrepit state, a white flag would be fashioned out of anything readily available, like a t-shirt or handkerchief. The most common way of making a white flag is to obtain a pole and tie two corners of a sheet of cloth to the top of the pole and somewhere in the middle.

Origin

The first mention of the usage of white flags to surrender is made during the Eastern Han dynasty (A.D 25–220). In the Roman Empire, the historian Cornelius Tacitus mentions a white flag of surrender in A.D. 109. Before that time, Roman armies would surrender by holding their shields above their heads.[1] The white flag was widely used in the Middle Ages in Western Europe to indicate an intent to surrender. The color white was used generally to indicate a person was exempt from combat; heralds bore white wands, prisoners or hostages captured in battle would attach a piece of white paper to their hat or helmet, and garrisons that had surrendered and been promised safe passage to safety would carry white batons.[2] In 1625, Hugo Grotius in De jure belli ac pacis (On the Law of War and Peace), one of the foundational texts in international law, recognized the white flag as a "sign, to which use has given a signification;" it was "a tacit sign of demanding a parley, and shall be as obligatory, as if expressed by words." [3]

Umayyad dynasty

The Umayyad dynasty ruled for ninety years (661–750) over the Islamic world, using white as their symbolic color as a reminder of Muhammad's first battle at Badr, and to distinguish themselves from the Abbasids, by using white, rather than black, as their color of mourning. White is one of the pan-Arab colors because of that period.

Ancien Régime in France

During the period of the Ancien Régime, starting in the early 17th century, the royal standard of France became a plain white flag, sometimes covered in fleur-de-lis when in the presence of the king or bearing the ensigns of the Order of the Holy Spirit.

The white color was also used as a symbol of military command, by the commanding officer of a French army. It would be featured on a white scarf attached to the regimental flag as to recognise French units from foreign ones and avoid friendly fire incidents. The French troops fighting in the American War of Independence fought under the white flag.

The French Navy used a plain white ensign for ships of the line. Smaller ships might have used other standards, such as a fleur-de-lys on white field. Commerce and private ships were authorised to use their own designs to represent France, but were forbidden to fly the white ensign.

During the French Revolution, in 1794, the blue, white and red tricolor was adopted as the official national flag. The white flag quickly became a symbol of French royalists.

During the Bourbon Restoration, the white flag replaced the Tricolor, by then seen as a symbol of regicide.

It was finally abandoned in 1830, with the July Revolution, with the definitive use of the blue, white and red flag.

In 1873, an attempt to reestablish the monarchy failed when the comte de Chambord refused to accept the Tricolor. He demanded the return of the white flag before he would accept the throne, a condition that proved unacceptable.

Racing

In FIA sanctioned races, a white flag warns of a slow car ahead. In non FIA races a white racing flag is displayed from the starter's tower indicates that the race leader is running his/her final lap. The white flag can be pointed at the race leader to avoid confusion of other drivers. Drivers may wave a small white flag after a collision to indicate that they are uninjured.

Buddhist-Confucian countries

In Buddhist countries, white is the colour of mourning, so a white flag is used where other cultures might fly a black flag.

Taliban Afghanistan

During the Afghan Civil War, the Taliban used a plain white flag. When it took over Kabul in 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the white flag became the national flag of the country, representing "the purity of their faith and government". After 1997, the Taliban added the Shahadah to the flag.

Minamoto clan

During the Genpei War (1180–1185), the Minamoto clan fought under a white flag while the Taira clan fought under a red flag. As successive shogunates were from Minamoto clan, this usage continued to the end of Tokugawa shogunate in 1868 when the current international usage was adopted.

See also

References

  1. ^ Koerner, Brendan I. (March 21, 2003). Why Do Surrendering Soldiers Wave White Flags?. Slate.
  2. ^ Keen, Maurice Hugh (1965). The Laws of War in the Middle Ages. London: Routledge & K. Paul. OCLC 507262
  3. ^ Text can be found here.







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