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Op-Ed

Diamonds: Symbols Of Love or Symbols Of War?

Miriam Mannak, Cape Town, South Africa, February 28, 2007

Think twice before swiping your credit card while a smiling diamond dealer wraps up your precious stone.

While sounds of gunshots, screaming children and crying women filled the cinema, she looked at her engagement ring. No longer did she see a sparkling symbol of eternal love. She saw blood, gore, violence, hatred, war and young boys being drugged and trained to shoot to kill. She saw the pain of women, losing their sons and their dignity, she saw young girls' legs being spread apart by grown men, possessed by an animal-like sexual force.

More than one out of ten purchasable diamonds can be classified as Blood Diamonds, stones that are mined in a war zone, and sold in order to finance that particular war or uprisings. The vast majority of the blood diamonds — or conflict diamonds — are from Africa. In countries such as Angola, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo war lords and have used and are using the profit of the diamond mining and sales — worth billions of dollars — to fuel war and conflict by, for instance, buying arms.

While peace has descended upon Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia — after many decades of war, military terrorism and human suffering — the situation in the Democratic Republic is one of despair and tragedy. Here, diamonds are a major engine fueling a conflict that has claimed many hundreds of thousands of lives. The same story counts for Ivory Coast.

Because they comprise 1.5 out of ten diamonds, the chance of buying a blood-stained stone is considerable. Those who refuse to be part of a conflict in a far away land have an option, and that is to insist that their jeweler or diamond dealer provide them with information that proves the stone is a clean one.

Think twice before swiping your credit card while a smiling diamond dealer wraps up your precious stone. Men should ask whether the engagement ring for their wife-to-be is a clean one, or if it was used to fuel conflict and war. Women wanting to treat themselves to a sparkly necklace should do the same. And diamond dealers should take responsibility too, by only purchasing clean diamonds and providing their customers with the necessary proof about the nature of the stone.

Myself, I refuse to wear diamonds because you never know what you are buying, as most retailers cannot guarantee that the stone you laid eyes on is not a conflict diamond. Would you want to have a ring around your finger for which, possibly, a little boy has had his hand chopped off with a machete? For which a young girl was forced to open her legs for drunken militiamen? For which several countries were drawn into a spiral of conflict, violence and sorrow? I don't think so.

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