With sectarian tensions ongoing in the Middle East, many people forget the commonalities between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, such as their mutual reverence for the holy sites of Mecca, located in Saudi Arabia. Within Mecca, in the Masjid al-Haram exists the Zam Zam well, a source of water revered by all Muslims, said to have been created by God.
What many might not know is that this name was years ago repurposed as a popular Iranian soft drink, Zam Zam Cola.
While the relationship between the majority Shiite Iran and the predominately Sunni Saudi Arabia is in turmoil in the aftermath of protests against Saudi Arabia's execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al Nimr, it is interesting to note that this Iranian cola drink was once the preferred choice of Saudi Arabia.
Created as a subsidiary of Pepsi in 1954 for the Iranian market, Zam Zam Cola became completely nationalized following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It was created in reference to the famous holy well and is today distributed in nearby countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates (UAE). All these aforementioned countries have now changed their diplomatic status with Iran — either cutting ties completely or, in the case of the UAE, downgrading diplomatic relations.
What might be surprising to some is that in 2002 Iran's Zam Zam Cola received a boost by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries following an effort to boycott American companies such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and McDonald's following American support of Israel in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
A 2002 New York Times article reported that the Iranian company delivered “10 million bottles to sweltering Saudi Arabia after a Saudi boycott of Coke and Pepsi.”
Since the beginning of the recent tensions, Iran has called for a ban on all Saudi products from entering the country as well as a suspension of Iranians performing the Umrah Hajj pilgrimage. Similarly, the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry also announced that it not only was severing diplomatic relations, but that it would cut off all commercial relations with Iran too.
While Iranian social media users have been preoccupied with commenting on Saudi Arabia's human rights record and the attacks on the Saudi embassy and consulates in Iran, Saudi Arabian and Gulf Arab social media users have been expressing their distrust of Iranian products and supporting the calls to boycott Iranian goods.
For example, one user with the Twitter handle @Death_To_iran exclaimed that “Iran would do anything to achieve its devious goals, including poisoning its goods. Beware so that you don't become a victim.”
He further claimed:
اصيب بالسرطان الكثير من مواطني الدول التي تستورد بضائع ايران، فقاطعها قبل ان تكون المصاب القادم #مقاطعة_المنتجات_الإيرانية_مطلب
— معآ لطرد إيران (@Death_To_iran) January 7, 2016
Many people caught cancer from the countries which import goods from Iran. Boycott them before you get infected
Another Twitter user, Diyala Alkhair, tied boycott with religious duty:
— ديالى الخير (@DiyalaAlkhair) January 7, 2016
Boycotting Iranian products is a Sharia compliant duty and those who go against it will be committing a sin because it will help stop the spilling of blood and that's a religious duty
Another tweet by the same user double down on the rhetoric:
ايران تبني اقتصادها بدماء الاطفال والضعفاء، فاحذر ان تعينها بشراء سلعها #مقاطعة_المنتجات_الإيرانية_مطلب
— ديالى الصابرة (@DiyalaAlsabira) January 7, 2016
Iran builds its economy on the blood of children and the weak. Be careful not to enable it by buying its products.
And Mogatah-sa from Saudi Arabia took photographs of Iranian products while strolling through a Saudi market, calling for their boycott:
— مقاطعة #وعي (@Mogatah_sa) January 7, 2016
This is a selection of Iranian products we found in the markets and shops. Boycott them
The above tweet has been retweeted more than 320 times and liked 60 times. It has also been published in different formats by different users.
Another tweet, also shared widely, urged Saudis to support their government in boycotting Iran:
واجبك الإنضمام ومقاطعة منتجات أعداء الإسلام وقوفا مع قرار حكومتنا الرشيده بقطعها العلاقات التجارية مع إيران pic.twitter.com/HoMWowmPWH
— مقاطعة #وعي (@Mogatah_sa) January 8, 2016
Your duty is to join and boycott the enemies of Islam in line with our government's decision to cut its commercial relations with Iran
It seems that the days of Zam Zam Cola drinkers in Saudi Arabia are numbered. Reversely, the Saudi Arabian stock market has been showing signs of decline in response to the loss of the Iranian market for companies such as the food producing Savola group.