Q&A: Turkish designer of Rabea symbol – it’s still alive

After Egyptian security forces dispersed the Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda sit-ins in support of former president Mohamed Morsi three years ago, killing hundreds in just a few hours, a black hand showing four fingers on a yellow background spread over social media networks.

The yellow logo became characteristic of demonstrations by the Brotherhood and their supporters, while a number of people faced prosecution for bearing the logo and the government engaged in attempts to criminalize its use on Facebook.

At one point sweeping social media platforms across the globe, the Rabea logo was a successful hit by any measure. Mada Masr interviews Saliha Eren, one of two Turkish graphic designers who designed the logo and initiated the historical campaign.

I understand the Rabea logo was developed by you in collaboration with another designer. How did you first come up with the idea to brand Rabea in this catchy way? Did you do it voluntarily or was it a business deal like any other?

This symbol was the result of teamwork. I was working with a social media team, called Haberseyret, for about five years. We were telling people about the Arab spring from the very start; people that were seeking justice and freedom touched us greatly. But we were shocked when the Egyptian military killed civilians in August 2013. The people courageously continued to resist in Rabea Square, so we decided to make this resistance visible. We did this driven by our consciences

How did you settle on the four fingers as a logo? Did you discuss other alternatives?

In fact, the four-finger sign belongs to the Egyptian people who resisted in Rabea and Nahda squares. When the coup supporters in Tahrir Square used the V sign for victory, Morsi supporters responded with this sign. You know, we were following what happened in the squares minute-by-minute. Then we saw the photos and decided to visualise it as a symbol. We had already designed lots of graphics to describe what was happening. The design came about as a result of this process. And the name came from Rabea square where many people were killed by the military. The move is from Egypt but the sign belongs to us all. Maybe, as somebody said to us, it’s a new victory sign as somebody said.

This is one of the photos that inspired us:


Once the Rabea logo swept social media platforms across the globe, where do you see it now?

So it is a good question that I often think about. The world around us has changed over the past few years and this symbol was a part of that. Also the change continues. It was a salue for people who seek truth and justice. Yes, I think it is still alive.

The logo was a strong example illustrating how powerful causes such as the Rabea massacre also need good branding and marketing to be able to attract attention. Is this a good or bad thing? What opportunities does this provide for political and human causes?

It was just done at the right time. If you move fast, the process succeeds easily. But I don’t think it was really a marketing strategy. It was a gift to us from God. We really wanted to announce to the world what the people in Egypt were struggling for. And God gave us the opportunity to do that.

I had been observing what is happening in the region around my country and the rest of the world for a long time. There are many international organizations who we expected to make changes. But nothing happened and at one point I came to realize that we have to take the spear in our chest. There is nobody except us.

Have you ever worked with other political campaigns?

I have worked with a lot of social campaigns. Also I don’t think that Rabea is a political campaign. My friends and I have arranged similar campaigns for Syrian people too.

Turkey has recently faced a similar attempt to what happened in Egypt three years ago — the military trying to take power. But, contrary to the Egyptian version, they seem to be failing. In your opinion, what is different in the Turkish case? How did the Islamist movement lose in Egypt but not in Turkey?

Firstly, we have many different political, ideological and religious views in Turkey. We know that President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and most of the politicians in the parliament are religious people, but Turkey has a secular political system. The President is politically neutral — he does not belong to any political party — and represents every single citizen of the country. Also the government has to provide for every citizen whether they have voted for them or not.

On the night of the attempted coup, my people’s first priority was to claim democracy and the state. We achieved it together. The most important thing was unity and solidarity and we did it. Last Sunday, about five million people gathered for the sake of the country in Istanbul, included the president, prime minister and opposition leaders. The picture was amazing. I am proud of my people who stopped the tanks with their bare hands.

The problem in Egypt was that the Brotherhood had no political experience. Morsi was not given enough time to prove his ability. But in Turkey we have strong leadership with long political experience.

Have you ever been to Egypt? What are your impressions?

I never been to Egypt but I had a dream. You know, in the past, the people used to go to the hajj by bus. I’d like to go to Egypt by road. First I would go to Syria, Jordan, then Jerusalem, Gaza and Cairo. I wish to be able to do this in the future, who knows?

Mohamed Hamama 

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