The so-called Arab Spring uprising (2013)

A protest with a clear statement, but with a meaning restricted to the Arab world

Rabia means four in Arabic. Rabia is also the Arab name for Tahir, the square in Cairo unfortunately famous for being the place of resistance of anti-coup protesters, and the theatre of a grave massacre. The contrast of the colours black on yellow background is conventionally used for danger signs.

Word and design mutually reinforce the double meaning of R4BIA (four fingers / number 4 in the text / Rabia Square) while, altogether, the logo conveys a simple, clear, strong and univocal statement that can be summarised as follows: Government watch out!. What happened in R4BIA / Tahir Square can be dangerous.

However, outside the Arab world the association between Tahir Square (and its tragic events) and R4BIA (four fingers) needed quite a bit of explanation. Moreover, for its specific association with a particular event / country, it was difficult to adopt and exploit the strong protest symbolic power of this logo for public actions elsewhere.

Scroll down to learn more about strenghts and limits of this action, or discover our analysis of the other three case studies.

R4BIA means four in Arab

Rauf Maltaş - Anadolu Ajansı

Arab spring protesters

Arab spring protesters

Arab spring protesters

Supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi raise up posters with the four finger. AFP photo / M. KHALED

Lesson Learned

Meaning and understanding of the connection between symbol and protest should not be culturally restricted in order to maximise its impact.

R4BIA protests in Egypt in August 2013 is another example of unified protest and univocal message. Rabia means four or the fourth in Arabic. It is also the name of the Rabia al-Adawiya Square in Cairo, known in the West as Tahir Square. The square is sadly famous for being the place of resistance of hundreds of thousands of anti-coup protesters for over two months, and the theatre of one of the gravest massacres of recent years.

Referring to the double meaning of the word Rabia (number four and the square), protesters tried to voice their demands to the world by raising their four fingers. Using this arbitrary connection, a logo showing four fingers and the word R4BIA was created. The choice of black fingers on yellow background added an additional message, as this contrast is conventionally used for danger signes. The logo spread and gathered support very rapidly, and it soon became the symbol of the anti-coup protest in Egypt.

Strengths

 

 

The logo is very catchy. Word and design mutually reinforce the verbal and graphic meaning of four.

 

 

The contrast of the four black fingers on a yellow background guarantees a high visibility, and its conventional meaning of danger is widely recognised.

 

The symbol has also a very strong protest symbolic power. The arbitrary meaning of the word R4BIA (four fingers and Rabia Square), the association with the protest, and the conventional message of danger conveyed an altogether simple, clear, strong and univocal protesters’ statement easy to grasp: Government watch out! What happened in R4BIA / Tahir Square can be dangerous.

Decision-makers could hardly ignore the protest and discredit protesters. The widespread use of the symbol stated the unity of the protesting mass. Wearing the t-shirts carrying the symbol, protesters stated that they were not just active, but empowered. The catchy symbol and its widespread use together with the shorthand text offered the media excellent and ready-made material for a wide coverage of the protest.

Limits

The powerful protest symbolic meaning of the logo is geographically and culturally bound. The connection between the word R4BIA and the tragic events occurred in Tahir Square was difficult to grasp beyond the borders of the Arabic speaking world. Western media had catchy visual material, but they had to explain and remind constantly to their audiences the meaning of the symbol and its connection with the protest.

The symbol was also short-lived. Although it has a strong protest symbolic power, for its specific association with a particular event / country and its particular language connotations it was difficult to adopt and exploit this logo for public actions outside the Arabic speaking contexts.

 

As the logo was not registered as a Trade Mark, it had a second life. However, enabling twists and adaptions of the meaning, the non registration also allows the undermining of the original intent and the strong protest symbolic power of the symbol.

Here are a couple of examples concerning the twists and adaptations of the R4BIA logo/symbol.

LESBOPHOBIA : Não BASTA!

£15.99

XÉNOPHOBIE : BASTA! (Ré)agissons

£11.99

Violencia contra la mujer, Digamos ¡ BASTA !

£14.99

I HAVE JUST ONE WORD FOR MR. TRUMP: BASTA!

£15.99

Gewalt gegen Frauen ? Stopp, Nein, BASTA !

£15.99

Гомофобия. Собрались, чтобы сказать БАСТА!

£ 15.99

Io dico BASTA! femminicidio. E tu?

£11.99

Și eu spun BASTA! homofobia

£11.99