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Swiss protest for peace under a rainbow banner

Swiss anti-war demonstrators are showing a penchant for rainbow peace flags Keystone Archive

The rainbow flag has become the sign of choice for anti-war protesters in Switzerland.

Over 30,000 have been bought and are either hanging from balconies or being displayed at peace marches across the country.

It was the Swiss organisation, Switzerland without Army Group (GSoA), that brought the multicolour flags to a larger audience, so to speak.

It hit on the idea of bringing a batch to a recent anti-war demonstration in the country’s capital, Bern.

Spokesperson Tobias Schnebli told swissinfo: “They were a huge success and that made us decide to sell them in other parts of Switzerland.”

At the peace demonstration in Bern on March 22, thousands of rainbow flags bearing the word “Pace” in white letters could be seen, many tied around the waists of protesters.

“Pace” means “peace” in Italian.

The banners have been snapped up the Swiss. GSoA sells them for SFr10 ($7.20) each, which barely covers production costs.

The organisation says it has been overwhelmed by the demand – over 15,000 flags have been sold in the past three weeks. Customers currently face a week-long wait for one of these popular fabric rectangles.

Italian connection

The idea to use the rainbow flag as a protest against the war in Iraq has its roots in Italy.

The organisation “Bandiere di Pace” or “Banners for Peace” recently started a campaign to persuade Italians to hang rainbow-coloured peace flags from their balconies.

The idea caught on and first made its way into Italian-speaking Switzerland – Schnebli says some 15,000 banners hang in Ticino.

Gay pride

But the rainbow flag was more commonly associated with the gay and lesbian movement before the second Gulf war broke out.

More than 20 years ago, the American artist, Gilbert Baker, designed such a flag as a symbol for gay pride.

The internationally recognised banner is usually flown during gay and lesbian marches and is displayed outside gay-friendly bars and clubs.

But homosexual organisations do not seem to mind that the peace movement has effectively hijacked their insignia.

Moël Volken, Bern-based director of the Swiss gay organisation, Pink Cross, is happy that another cause is being pushed under practically the same banner.

“We should take it as a sign that under the rainbow there is space for all of us, for lesbian and gay people, and there is also space for people fighting for peace,” Volken told swissinfo.

“It’s important that we don’t start a new war about to whom belongs the rainbow, because the rainbow belongs to nobody. It’s just a sign from nature that shows us that there is enough space for many colours on this earth.”

swissinfo, Faryal Mirza

The rainbow flag has become the Swiss symbol for opposition to the war in Iraq.

More than 30,000 of these flags are said to have been sold in Switzerland.

An Italian organisation, Bandiere di Pace, first had the idea to use the flag as a symbol of protest against the second Gulf war.

The rainbow flag has been used since 1978 as a symbol of gay pride.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR