Tamim Al Majd: A symbol of pride & defiance

 18 Dec 2017 - 11:03

Six months after four Arab counties decided to place a total blockade on the state of Qatar, the current situation has proven that the blockading countries’ strategy has turned into a total failure. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Emirates and Egypt have all realised their strategy of cornering Qatar into submission has reached a no-go area. Qatar firmly stands and further consolidates its international reputation. While the others remain flimsy with a stigma of shame, they can hardly hide way from. 

Symbolic images used by the blockading countries’ media

In an attempt to demonise Qatar and its leadership the various media outlets from the blockading countries attempted to associate Qatar with support of terrorism, treason, breaking way from the rules of the Gulf Cooperation Council and abusing international law. 

Articles appearing in various newspapers for instance from Saudi Arabia and Emirates have kept manufacturing false claims about Qatar’s foreign policy and its activities abroad. Manipulated images to symbolise danger and despair have become recurrent on such blockading countries newspapers. 

For instance in Okaz (published from Riyad), on 2 July 2017 a caption under an image portraying the Qatari Riyal note being squeezed in arrest shackles: ‘International companies are getting ready to leave Qatar’. Also in another article in Okaz, on 2 July 2017 showing a bloody stained hand the caption reads: ‘Doha funds in London “tainted with blood”. 

In Albayan newspaper based in UAE, on 6 July 2017, an image showing an arm with hands bearing long nails and a caption reads: “Abdallah bin Zayed call ‘Qatar stop supporting terrorism’ has bewildered Doha”. A final example from another article in the Albayan newspaper showing a ticking bomb on the map of Qatar signifying that time is out. The caption reads: ‘Tamim sacrifices Qatar’ (Albayan, 2 July 2017).

Icons, symbolic images and graffiti as tools to challenge the blockade.

Icons as symbolic tools to convey messages for social changes are not new. Images and graffiti writing have been recurrently employed by various nations for thousands of years. Graffiti or writing slogans on street walls is not a new phenomenon that started with the Arab Spring events but a practice as old as the human race.

Humans learnt a lot from other civilizations through carvings, symbols scripted on walls and ornamental objects which we see nowadays examples of it in museums and historical sites (The Pyramids in Egypt and other world heritage places).

With reference to the Tunisian revolution, graffiti writings and political slogans painted on street walls, doors and sometimes on pavements and grounds of public spaces became significant means of effective communication. Strong but short statements decorating walls across the capital were part of the fuel of the revolution.

Colourful graffiti and drawings, which called people for action, stop the regime’s corruption, and encourage the public to stand up to injustice covered large areas of inner city streets. 

How has Qatar challenged the blockade?

The blockade of Qatar has instigated unprecedented initiatives among Qatari nationals as well as residents from all nationalities. 

Various initiatives have been developed to challenge the blockade. Political, economic, social and cultural. The media outlets headed by Al Jazeera network have also played a decisive role in revealing the fabrications and deception of the Saudi, UAE and Egyptian media. 

However, the development of iconic images in Qatar as part of a solidarity campaign has proven instrumental. Iconic images like ‘Tamim al Majd’ and “All of us are Tamim’ have become symbols of unity, defiance, and determination to defeat the oppressors.

New forms of resisting the blockade. 

Looking at the strategic value of the above mentioned icons one may consider the communicative repercussions of their widespread use. In fact, as soon as the original Tamim Al Maj iconic image got released by a volunteer, it started to be adopted by various people from all strata of society. In no time, this turned into a symbol of unity. The reproduction of the iconic image in different shapes and various spaces, like cars, buildings, towers, gardens, stadiums and T-shirts etc. has developed a national sentiment of belonging. 

Considering the symbolic meaning of this phenomenon, one could argue that a key aim of the blockading countries was to tarnish the image of the Qatari leadership, specifically the icon of Sheikh Tamim. The adoption of the Qatari public of the ‘Tamim Al Majd’ iconic image sends therefore a very strong message to the world; ‘We are proud of our leadership and we stand by it no matter what’.  As a consequence, the icon has become a symbol for resilience, pride and national belonging. Citizens have proudly reproduced the iconic images in different forms and shapes as an expression of a national identity that is being threatened by the blockading countries.

Most importantly, the iconic image ‘Tamim Al Majd’ has become an emblem of the failure of the blockade in placing a total control on Qatar. Qataris have therefore managed to break free from the blockage thanks to their determination to stand together as a cemented block.

Dr Noureddine Miladi is the Head of Department of Mass Communication, College of Arts and Sciences, Qatar University.