Merwad Exhibition’s guest list sparks debate over loyalty and national sentiment.
The Merwad Exhibition which took place from 2-7 March hosts a number of social media personalities, amongst which has been the controversial United Arab Emirates-based influencer, Maryam Al-Yassi.
Social media users in Qatar have expressed their frustrations on various platforms, articulating their disappointment at the organisers for inviting Al-Yassi’s to the recent fashion event.
Al-Yassi has a history of provoking people in Qatar with her comments, some of which have been perceived to be anti-Qatari particularly during one of the country’s most sensitive times. In 2017, during the blockade on the country, Maryam took to her Snapchat addressing the people of Qatar telling them that they had to ‘accept’ that they and their leadership are in the wrong ‘before it gets too late’.
اول من وقف ضد قطر وقت الحصار مريم الياسي وتيم الفلاسي مستحيل انسى هجمتهم على قطر ، هالاشكال المفروض ما يدخلونهم قطر ❌
— SA (@0snk_) March 3, 2022
At a time where many smear campaigns were being waged against Qatar, with the blockading countries attempting to devalue the Qatari Riyal as well as a real fear of a potential military attack by Qatar’s adversaries keeping many in Doha up at night, Al-Yassi posted videos asking the Qatari people whether their loyalties lie with the “Amir of Qatar or the nation” presenting the two as mutually exclusive. Her questioning was seen by many Qataris as furthering the agenda of media outlets in the blockading countries who had tried to manufacture dissent in Doha. The influencer further went on to note that “it is not just one or two countries against Qatar,” inferring that the whole world is standing against Qatar.
Numerous propaganda campaigns were launched against Qatar and its leadership during the time, among them false claims of a coup, with some Saudi and Emirati Chanel’s going as far as promoting a member of the Al-Thani family as a leader in waiting.
These campaigns were coupled with continuous attempts to devalue Qatar’s currency, attempts which Qatar continues to pursue compensation for through court cases. In March 2018, the Qatari Central Bank asked the United States to “investigate UAE-owned banks in the US for engaging in ‘bogus’ foreign exchange deals aimed at undermining the Qatari riyal.” Fast forward to January 2022, Qatar settled a lawsuit it had filed against the Emirates NBD Bank PJSC and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC several years prior, over claims that both entities attempted to devalue its local currency during the 2017 GCC crisis.
In light of all this, many in Qatar were angry when they found out that Al-Yassi who posted a video on Snapchat saying, “you [Qataris] might not accept the idea that you’re in the wrong, maybe you are being too proud to admit that you are wrong—and this is something normal… but when the time is over your cry for help won’t be of any use. You need to understand [the gravity] of what you are doing, what you are writing and what you are saying,” had been invited by the exhibition organisers.
With the memory of the blockade still very much palpable among various demographics within Qatari society, the invite of Al-Yassi to the exhibition triggered those who remember her anti-Qatar sentiments during a time of threat and struggle.
Anger towards the social media personality
As per the Snapchat videos circulating on Twitter, Al-Yassi was allegedly confronted by angry participants at the exhibition, shouting at her and expressing their irritation towards her. Another tweet however, denied that the video had anything to do with the influencer, and that it was instead a heated exchange between a Qatari national and an Emirati national regarding photography and privacy matters.
Amid the discussion across social media platforms regarding the influencer’s visit, some users have opted for neutral stances. One user on twitter said, “regardless of the things she said before, peace has been achieved by everyone and the situation has calmed. It is wrong to fix a mistake with a mistake; what happened [the alleged attack on her] was uncivilised. She entered the country legally, and if there’s blame to place, it should be on the organisers.”
Others took to the platform stating that the organisers of Merwad Exhibition, specifically those who sent out the invitations (referring to Al-Yassi), are not concerned with nationalist sentiments, as they are mostly driven by fame.
UAE and Qatar tensions through famous personalities
In January, another debate spread across social media whereupon the Emirati singer, Ahlam Al-Shamsi, called out the Kuwaiti government for making her undertake a mandatory three-day quarantine (before leaving Kuwait), whilst her counterpart Fahad Al-Kubaisi, a Qatari singer, was exempted from this regulation.
In the video she put out, the singer pronounced her nationality, alluding to it being the reason behind the government’s quarantine-mandate requirements.
Singer Al-Kubaisi had been in Kuwait at the same time during a visit to perform at a wedding ceremony, according to reports.