Behind the mask

Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Ahmed Morsy, Jan 30, 2013.

“The regime will not enjoy a moment of rest till we achieve retribution for the martyrs. Otherwise, we will topple it,” a member of the Black Bloc told Al-Ahram Weekly. Dressed from head to toe in black, face covered with a bandanna, he added: “The revolution has been peaceful for two years to no avail. We are turning it violent now.”  

The Black Bloc first appeared in Tahrir Square on 24 January. It has since excited a frenzy of media speculation as members popped up across the country. Mostly young, some are anarchists, others football Ultras. But while both groups have been a presence throughout the revolution, the Black Bloc has declared itself a discreet entity.

“We are a new revolutionary group, not affiliated to any political party or movement and we have no religious background as some have claimed,” said one member.

“We don’t have a founder or a spokesman. Each member of our group gathers in a pre-arranged place before heading to their destination. Each member should have a weapon,” he added.

“We formed in reaction to the existence of the Muslim Brotherhood’s military wing. We warn the Muslim Brotherhood never again to use their armed militias against protesters as they did outside the presidential palace last December.”

The Black Bloc claims to have cells in several governorates, each numbering around 25. Members are discouraged from speaking to the media, and are required not to disclose their identity.

A video entitled “Black Bloc Egypt” has appeared on YouTube. It provides instructions on the preparation of explosive devices, smoke bombs and other weapons.

The group has claimed responsibility for setting fire to the downtown offices of Ikhwan Online and several of the Muslim Brotherhood’s provincial headquarters. They have also blocked the 6 October bridge and Cairo Metro more than once.

“We have been striving for years to liberate people… we will demolish corruption and topple the tyrant,” they said in their video. “We are not Ultras, we are not anyone,” reads one of their statements … //

… “The formation of a group like the Black Bloc is a natural result of events in Egypt,” argues activist and blogger Bassem Sabri. “I expect more groups like it appear, which worries me.”

High profile activist Gigi Ibrahim believes “the Black Bloc will make trouble even if its members have good revolutionary intentions. It will definitely be used against the revolution.”

“Black Bloc refers to a street protest tactic not a group/militia. Yet in Egypt many talk about them as if they’re a group,” columnist and activist Mona Al-Tahawi, wrote on her Twitter account. “Black Bloc is a good tactic but we still lack a vision.”

“Investigations are underway to monitor these elements, find out their inciting figures and funding sources. Such investigations will determine how we will deal with them,” a source within the Interior Ministry told the Weekly.

“Should one of them be detained we will announce the fact only after investigations are complete.”
In a later development, the prosecutor-general on Tuesday accused the group of terrorism and ordered their arrest.
(full text).


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