Angy Essam gets some insight into those behind the mask
The Black Bloc appeared for the first time in January this year. Their first appearance was through their official page on Facebook. They asked people to join them to protest against the Muslim Brotherhood on Egypt’s streets on 25 January, the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, under the slogan “Retribution or the Mess”.
The group is characterised by its black dress and masks to hide their identity even among each other. They depend on the self-defence principal. The Black Bloc group do not belong to any political affiliation or party. They consist of male and female youths ranging from 15 to 30 years old. They exist in cities and governorates across Egypt, but especially in Cairo and Alexandria.
The Black Bloc movement was famous in European countries for their protests and riots. The first Black Bloc group in history appeared in the 1980s in German cities Hamburg and Berlin objecting to nuclear energy. Their actions coincided with a G-8 summit.
The Egyptian Black Bloc movement has no direct connection with international Black Bloc movements around the world. Despite this fact the Black Bloc in the US sent a letter to the Egyptian Black Bloc titled “You strike the note, it sounds on us”. The US group said that they do not represent anyone or anything and that they have participated in many actions in the US and elsewhere around the world. They added that the Black Bloc is a tactic not a group; that’s what makes it frightening to the rulers. The US Black Bloc stated that they had the honour to address the Egyptian equivalent and expressed their desire to have a more explicit intercontinental dialogue with the Egyptian group. “We have circulated reports of your struggle here, and now we are seeing photos and videos of our actions in YouTube collages from Egypt. But we want to be able to discuss tactics, goals as well as strategy,” said the US Black Bloc.
At the beginning, the Black Bloc occupied the underground metro and all the bridges that led to Tahrir Square and downtown Cairo. Then they issued a declaration through their official Facebook page demanding people to attack and seize the important administrative buildings all over Egypt on 26, 27 and 28 January. At the same time they warned against attacking the Ministry of Interior “as it will not generate any benefit to the revolutionary progress targeted”.
The Black Bloc members consider themselves the revolution’s martyrs’ progeny. Their main characteristic from their point of view is that they are all flag bearers. “We have been formed as a normal result of the absence of retribution in the case of martyrs killed’,’ said the black bloc. Their main belief is either they achieve complete liberty or it’s better to die.
The movement has its own rules and regulations that govern all their actions. “Our first rule is that we aren’t afraid of them; they should fear us,’’ referring to the current regime. Their second rule is that cowards have no place in the black bloc world. The final rule is that martyrs’ blood will forever flow in their veins and they are martyrs too “but their martyrdom date has not yet come.” “Revolutions are made from martyrs’ blood, not from flowers’ water,” says the Black Bloc. According to them, the only logical fact is that whatever is taken by force should return by force. They will recapture Egypt’s lost liberty by force as it was taken by force.
Concerning their number, the Black Bloc says they are an idea rather than just a group with a definite number. They are working to spread this idea all over Egypt and claim they have succeeded in achieving this.
“If anybody is interested in joining us he has to form his own team first and show us their work in the street practically. We are then ready to help and teach them our ideas.”
In general, the Black Bloc is very conservative and do not accept anyone whom they don’t know well to join. The group’s main role is to protect demonstrators and secure protest marches. “We work to protect females from harassment they are suffering from in the demonstrations, marches and sit-ins that aim in the first place to distort the demonstrations’ goals and weaken its role.” They stressed that their target is to weaken the Muslim Brotherhood’s economy, not Egypt’s.
“When the Muslim Brotherhood’s economy is weak, this unjust regime will be paralysed and fall soon’’. According to them, one of their major roles is to confront and stop the violent actions of the Muslim Brotherhood’s militias. The bloc warns it is ready to face the Muslim Brotherhood’s “mess” with another one much more severe.
The Black Bloc previously declared its responsibility for burning down the Muslim Brotherhood’s offices in Shubra and 6 October. But they announced that they will not clash with the police or the Armed Forces because they are not their enemies. “Contrary to what all think about us, we stop violence, not do it.”
But the group says it is keen to escalate its actions. They explain that they perform their actions “in ascending order to give the regime the chance to correct their mistakes first.” If not they escalate.
Some political activists see that the formation of such a movement represents strong evidence about the radicalism of some of Egyptian revolutionary movements and its tendency towards violence. They are asking what this movement wants to achieve and whether its announced target, the retribution of martyrs, will lead to more anarchy and violence.