Anarchy in Egypt? The Question of the Black Bloc

Egyptian Black Bloc

Egyptian Black Bloc

During the Egyptian revolution and the struggles against the Mubarak regime, the Egyptian military and then the Morsi regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, several groups emerged modeled on the anarchist Black Blocs in Europe and North America, and possibly even Latin America. As the anonymous interviewee in the article below indicates, the original Egyptian Black Bloc was a social revolutionary, libertarian group that used the Black Bloc name and tactics to defend themselves and the Egyptian revolution from the various authoritarian groups vying for power in Egypt. However, it would appear that more recently a number of groups identifying themselves as “Black Bloc” have emerged which have allied themselves with the Egyptian military in its fight against the Muslim Brotherhood, an error equally fatal to freedom, equality, justice and the social revolution as collaboration between so-called “anarchists” and the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. The interview was conducted by Goos Hofstee, from Your Middle East, an online “independent” news magazine.

egypt street_is_ours_protest

Egypt: Will the Real Black Bloc Please Stand Up

The young man at the other side of the phone sounds hesitant. “How do I know I can trust you?” he says, his voice full of suspicion. —- “You don’t”, I reply, “but I have no interest in ratting you out to the intelligence services”. —- This man, we’ll call him Mohamed, has good reason to be anxious. The small group of friends he belongs to form the core of the original Black Bloc, the mysterious group that first emerged on the streets of Cairo this January, when protesters commemorated the two-year anniversary of the Revolution. —- Protesting against the Morsi regime, the Bloc openly declared they would not eschew violence to realize their goals.

Indeed, the group has since been involved in several violent incidents, such as burning the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in the Sixth October area, storming the media offices of “Brothers Online,” and torching the Freedom and Justice Party newspaper headquarters.

Using slogans such as, “Our mess prevents chaos” and, “We are confusion that prevents confusion”, their protests quickly prompted a violent crackdown on Black Bloc members. The prosecutor-general’s office asked citizens to arrest any person suspected of being a Bloc member, even if they did as little as merely wearing all black clothing.

A resulting manhunt saw citizens hand over activists to the security forces. Young Egyptian men, including some of Mohamed’s friends, were betrayed, or randomly arrested and detained on charges of “terrorist activities”. Since the removal of President Morsi, the newly installed military regime continues to target opposition protesters and conduct covert investigations into suspected Black Bloc members. To remain anonymous is therefore not only essential for the continuation of the group’s work, it is also crucial for its members’ personal safety.

Egypt’s Black Bloc grew out of their struggle for liberation from an authoritarian system, only after non-violent civil efforts had failed. While the group’s tactics originated out of a plan to protect women revolutionaries by forming a protective human shield around them at protests, the violence of the police and armed forces against peaceful protesters meant that the Bloc soon began to fight against the Morsi regime.

An Anarchist Black Bloc?

An Anarchist Black Bloc?

The first statement of the Black Bloc that outlined this mission was a video posted on Youtube. The clip, set to a loud and aggressive audio track, showed hooded and masked young men walking into Alexandria city-centre at night, waving an Egyptian flag and several black banners emblazoned with the international anarchy sign: the letter A in a circle. Their mission they declare in the video, is to “fight against the fascist regime of the Muslim Brotherhood and its armed militia”

Since Morsi was ousted, the Bloc has been fighting the military regime. The bloc’s goal has evolved to the “defence of the Revolution” against any dictatorial regime, be it military or religious. The Bloc’s members claim to have no affiliation with existing political parties and maintain that they have nothing against state institutions per se, “but against control by a particular system, the supremacy of a certain group.” They further contend that “the best thing is to hit the existing system and its economy by sabotaging the system’s institutions and not ones belonging to the public.

With a physical presence in more than eight cities across Egypt, and an increasingly stronger online profile, the Black Bloc is still growing in popularity. However, this growing presence poses a problem that is directly linked to the structural set-up of the group. While the Egyptian authorities are treating “the Black Bloc” as a singular, defined group, the reality is much more obscure.

As one member stated, the Black Bloc is “not a political group, but rather an idea that is not monopolized by anyone.” This secrecy and self-professed dispersed structure, in combination with the growing popularity of the Bloc’s goals and actions, has resulted in multiple Black Blocs mushrooming all over Egypt. There are several dozen Facebook pages claiming to represent the Black Bloc in Egypt, including ones for specific governorates and areas, like Black Bloc Upper Egypt, Black Bloc Cairo and Black Bloc Port Said. Moreover, a quick Google results in a multitude of video messages by activists, twitter feeds, and pages using the Black Bloc description and logos.

Egytp Al-MasriUltrasGraffito1_0

It seems that many of the activists are affiliated with the so-called Ultras, the hard-core fans of Cairo’s al-Ahly and Zamalek football clubs who are known for their radical politics and experience in fighting the police. However, while the Black Bloc activity is concentrated around these Ultras, it’s not limited to them, and certainly not all activists who’ve worn the balaclava or black hoodie are members of one of these football clubs…

How closed or open the groups identifying as “Black Bloc” are in Egypt right now is thus unclear, making it difficult to determine the actual scope of the movement. Black Bloc members communicate mainly by online social media, and as their members’ identities are unknown and faces remain unseen, it is almost impossible to confirm the authenticity of those who claim to speak in its name. Moreover, due to the ever present threat of arrest, and their deep rooted suspicion of the media, the core Black Bloc members are hardly ever willing to give interviews, which only contributes to the mystery and confusion that surrounds the group.

When, after some asking around the proverbial grapevine I managed to track down Mohamed, who was one of the founders of the original Black Bloc core group, it quickly transpired that he and his fellow Bloc founders have actually distanced themselves from both the multiple Black Bloc groups and even the Black Bloc label itself. During our short interview, he explained who the real Black Bloc was, how it got infiltrated and turned sour, and what the future holds for those who made up the original group of protesters at the core of the former Bloc.

Anarchy in Egypt

Anarchy in Egypt

What was the reason you set up the Black Bloc?

“Our friend Gaber Saleh, also known as Jika, got killed during clashes with the police in Mohammed Mahmoud Street in November 2012. After he got killed our group of friends, who had all been in the front lines of the clashes got together, and we decided we wanted to fight back. We were also all active on Facebook, and we decided to set up our own group and fight against the regime. We participated in the clashes against the police, attacking them with Molotov cocktails, and we filmed it and put the videos online. This way, people got to know our group, even though we remained anonymous. The public started to support us and everybody was talking about us, but no one knew who we were. I remember even my own brother and mother talking about the Black Bloc, they had no idea I was involved.”

Who is the real Black Bloc?

“We are. But we don’t use that name anymore, we now remain nameless or at times go under the banner of Arab Anarchists. The name Black Bloc has now become associated with fake groups. After we had started the Black Bloc, our mission became very popular and a lot of other Black Bloc pages started to appear online and we didn’t know who was behind them. People started to appear in the streets and on the (Tahrir) square during the clashes, and we didn’t know who they were. Then the media started talking about the Black Bloc, but in reality they referred to these other people, and they were never part of the real Black Bloc. We have always managed to stay anonymous. These people were forming a fake Black Bloc, and during the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood, they started working together with some army people. These army agents convinced these protesters that the army was on their side and would support them in their fight against the Muslim Brotherhood. They gave them weapons to attack the Muslim Brotherhood. For example, these fake Black Bloc members were involved in the Rabbaa clashes (the notorious July clashes near the Rabaa Al-Adaweya Mosque, between pro-Morsi supporters and government security forces). They worked together with the security forces in the clashes against the Morsi supporters. After a while, these fake Black Bloc members even started negotiating with the head of police and the Minister of Interior, and they agreed to work together against the Muslim Brotherhood. Even friends of mine were involved in this, they said that now the army and police were on their side and that they would give us justice. They were traitors to the revolution and traitors to our friends who died. They forgot about everything we fought for. So we, the core of the real Black Bloc felt betrayed, and we warned people against this deal with the police. This made the rival ‘Black Blocs’ very angry and they now consider us to be the enemy. This is why we decided to drop the name ‘Black Bloc’ because we needed to distance ourselves from these fake people.”

Egypt black and red

What was the background of these first Black Bloc founders?

“The people who created the original Black Bloc come from different walks of life, different cultures and faiths, but we share the same ideas about the revolution.”

What does that idea entail?

“We have to fight to the death. We are no better than our friends who got killed, and we are prepared to face the angel of death. We are ready to die for the revolution and for the blood of the martyrs, our friends. They were killed in the fight for our freedom. It is a good cause to die for. When we started the revolution our goal was to get freedom, justice, bread for the people, fundamental rights for everyone and equality for each. After we failed to get justice and the revolution was stolen from us and after lots of our friends died, now our primary goal is justice for the blood of the martyrs. We have to revenge our friends. That comes before the freedom, the equality and the bread.”

What would you like to see happen in Egypt, what is your vision?

“It doesn’t matter if the state is religious or not, basic human rights like food, freedom, healthcare and education is what matters. Everybody should be free to believe what they want, not be forced into a specific religion. Religion is not important to us. Even if Egypt would become a Zionist state, it would not matter to us if it means that people are safe and have freedom and food and equality. If Egypt would be a secular state, and this state would give my kids food and education, equality and healthcare and peace, we would be ok with that as well. We want a state that is a product of the revolution, where everybody can be free, not a secret, repressive state, but a state that provides a better future.”

Clashes in Alexandria

Clashes in Alexandria

Who are your enemies now?

“Our enemies are not just the Muslim Brotherhood. Before the Muslim Brothers, it was the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, who took over after Mubarak was toppled. Then Morsi became President, and the Muslim Brothers became our enemy because there was still no justice. After the Muslim Brotherhood was ousted, it was unbelievable but SCAF came back, and now they are our enemy again.”

What are your plans as a group now, what does the future hold for you?

“We, the real core of the former Black Bloc are now laying low because the current battle is between the army and police on the one hand and the Muslim Brotherhood on the other. They are now fighting amongst themselves who will rule the country. Only the fake Black Bloc, those who are collaborating with the army and police and intelligence agencies are still fighting. The Black Bloc you see on television and in the media now is the fake Black Bloc. We are now resting and preparing for our comeback, which will take place during the upcoming anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes on 19 November. Then we will start to show both the Muslim Brotherhood and the army that we are still alive and that we are back. We will stay nameless and anonymous.”

Down with the Military

Down with the Military

Statement from Egyptian Anarchists

Egypt in flames

Egypt in flames

The situation in Egypt continues to deteriorate, threatening to descend into civil war. Below I reproduce, first, a statement by some Egyptian anarchists regarding the current crisis. The original statement can be found here. Then I set forth a statement by Tahrir-ICN. In Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, I included an earlier analysis of the initial promise of the popular movements in Egypt.

EgyptAnarConf

Statement by the Egyptian Libertarian Socialist Movement

Authoritarian methods, used today by [General Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi, are an example of state terrorism against the people. Claiming that this excessive violence is directed against a certain segment because of its ideology is intellectual nonsense. This terrorism was practiced by the military and police forces not only against the [Muslim] Brotherhood, but days before military forces attacked workers in Suez, and charged them with incitement to strike, as if the right to strike has become a punishable offence. We are now back to the same emergency law [as before].

The Army and the police now give the pretext for the party of parties to exercise violence against the various segments of society, including also the state and its agencies in the game, working in collaboration with the media to create an image for the people that there is a monster to destroy, so to kill him becomes a community’s mission.

But the parties involved in the massacre of today seek only their own advantage. The conflict, since its inception, between the two parties was for seats and positions in the state, and both parties do not care about the blood, both parties play the poor against the poor in the skit of distraction and claim their rights from the remnants of the businessmen and statesmen. That polarization does not only serve the owners of capital and owners of high-level positions in the state.

THERE IS NO WAR BUT CLASS WAR! DOWN WITH THE STATE! DOWN WITH THE MILITARY! DOWN WITH THE POLITICAL SYSTEM! DOWN WITH CAPITALISM!

Against All Authority

Against All Authority

Tahrir-ICN Statement on the events in Egypt

The events of the past couple of days are the latest step in a sequence of events by which the military can consolidate its hold on power, aim towards the death of the revolution and a return to a military/police state.

The authoritarian regime of the Muslim Brotherhood had to go. But what has replaced it is the true face of the military in Egypt – no less authoritarian, no less fascist and for sure more difficult to depose.

The massacre carried out by the army against pro-Morsi supporters in Nadha Square and Raba’a has left around 500 killed and up to 3000 injured (Ministry of Health figures- the reality is likely much higher). It was a pre-orchestrated act of state terrorism. Its aim is to divide the people and push the Muslim Brotherhood to create more militias to revenge and protect themselves. This in turn will enable the army to label all Islamists as terrorists and produce an “internal enemy” in the country which will allow the army to keep the military regime in an ongoing state of emergency.

They go after the Muslim Brotherhood today, but they will come after anyone who dares to criticize them tomorrow. Already the army has declared a state of emergency for one month, giving the police and military exceptional powers, and a curfew has been declared in many provinces for the same amount of time from 7pm to 6am. This gives the army a free hand to crack down on dissent. It is a return to the days before the revolution, where emergency law had been in place since 1967 and it provided the framework for wide-spread repression and denial of freedoms.

The New Regime in Egypt

The New Regime in Egypt

The character of the new regime is clear. Just a few days ago 18 new governors were appointed, the majority of which hail from the ranks of the army/police or even remnants of the Mubarak regime. There has also been an ongoing attack on workers who continue to strike for their rights (such as the recent army attack and arrest of steel workers on strike in Suez). The military regime is also hunting for revolutionary activists, journalists have been beaten and arrested, foreigners have been threatened against being witnesses to events. Both local and global media have told half truths and built narratives supportive of a political agenda. The counter-revolution is in full flow and it knows how to break the unity of the people in its effort to divide and conquer.

In the past two days there has been a rise in sectarian reprisals, with up to 50 churches and Christian institutions attacked. The army and police were not seen protecting these buildings of the Christian community. It is in the interests of both the army and the Muslim Brotherhood to stoke tensions and create fear and hatred in the people. They will fight for their control of the State as people’s blood fills the streets.

We condemn the massacres at Raba’a and Nadha Square, the attacks on workers, activists and journalists, the manipulation of the people by those who vie for power, and sectarian attacks. For the revolution to continue the people must remain united in their opposition to the abuses and tyranny of power, against whoever it is directed.

Down with the military and Al-Sisi!

Down with the remnants of the Mubarak regime and business elite!

Down with the State and all power to autonomous communities!

Long live the Egyptian revolution!

Egyptian anarchists

Egyptian anarchists

Military Dictatorship or Social Revolution in Egypt

social revolution flags

Here is a brief excerpt from a larger piece by Jerome Roos on the Egyptian military’s recent moves against the Morsi government in Egypt:

Even if the Muslim Brotherhood did at times seek to directly confront the military’s political influence, the military’s top command remained one of the dominant political and economic players even after Egypt’s first free and fair elections. It never took over state power because it never truly relinquished it: after burning its fingers on a disastrous year of military rule, it deliberately entered into a coalition with the country’s biggest and oldest organized political force. The moment that force imploded, as a result of its own incompetence and arrogance, the army simply dumped it and replaced it with someone more of their liking — piggybacking off a wave of grassroots protest and some of the largest mobilizations in world history to further entrench its hegemony.

This has led to an extremely dangerous situation in which a majority of protesters has now come to see the army as an enforcer of the popular will and a defender of the people’s revolution because it sided with them in the struggle to overthrow the deeply unpopular Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, the military command has carefully and skilfully preserved the position of social dominance it acquired over the course of the past six decades of military dictatorship. Mubarak was overthrown, but his authoritarian state was never truly dismantled. As an Egyptian activist told us in an email yesterday, by siding with the streets in the overthrow of Morsi, the army and the state security apparatus even managed to “whitewash” their own previous lies and crimes and now seem more popular and less vulnerable than ever.

For the rest of the article, click here.

egypt

Anarchy in Egypt

Egyptian Anarchist Black Bloc

Egyptian Anarchist Black Bloc

Here is a post from “Even if Your Voice Shakes” regarding anarchism in Egypt:

Anarchists have been present in Egypt before, during, and after the revolution, but until today, they have yet to organize a mass grouping under the banner of anarchism. The Ultras of Egypt’s football clubs have for years been associated with anarchist ideas and actions, and they are widely credited with having initiated the level militancy that brought down the Mubarak government in February of 2011.

Last night, anarchism left the graffitied walls, small conversations, and online forums of Egypt, and came to life in Cairo, declaring itself a new force in the ongoing social revolution sparked two years ago with multiple firebombings against Muslim Brotherhood offices. Later, the government shutdown the “Black Blocairo” and “Egyptian Black Bloc” Facebook pages, but they were soon re-launched.

“Wait for our next attacks as we respond to the closing of our official page…” they posted in a statement posted online this morning (translated below).

Today, the black bloc made its first mass-appearance in Tahrir Square, and, shortly after, firebombed the Shura Council (Egyptian Parliament), tore down a section of the protest-barrier walls leading from Tahrir Square, and, with others, engaged in fighting against security forces.

These statements and actions are in preparation for tomorrow’s second anniversary of the revolution, and for what some are calling “a whole new level” or protest in Egypt.

Anarchism and the black bloc concept has grown in recent months across Egypt, Stemming from various anarchist grouping/circles that coalesced during the revolutionary period. A massive distrust among the youth of all political parties, a sharp critique of the role of religion within governance, and the inspiration of anarchist resistance around the world (largely symbolized by the late-2008 revolt in Greece) have helped it catalyze.

Protesters teargassed in Egypt

Protesters teargassed in Egypt

Below is the statement of Black Blocairo in regards to the removal of their websites, their firebombing attacks against government offices, and their calls for revolt:

“Yesterday and after we finished our event, we met some of the revolutionary movements and we decided to unite together in our next attacks, hence we did our first two attacks, as we told you yesterday:

1- Setting fire to Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) online office.

2- Setting fire in the Ikhwan office in Al-Manial street in Cairo.

 And we announced our revolution since today in Al-Tahrir Square untill Egypt and it’s people get their rights back! Life, Freedom and social justice!

Black Blocairo, The Hooligans

Wait for our next attacks as we respond to the closing of our official page…”

EGYPTIAN ANARCHIST LINKS:

Revolution Black Bloc (Egyptian anarchist page)

Black Blocairo (Black Blocairo’s new page)

Black Bloc Egypt

OTHER ARAB ANARCHIST LINKS:

Anarchists of Arabs  (Arab anarchist page)

Moroccan Black Bloc

 Anarchists in Lebanon

Tunisian Anarchist Movement

Tunisian Anarchist Organization

Tunisian Anarchist

Syrian Anarcha Feminist Movement

Syrian Anarchists

Tahrir ICN (English European solidarity page)

egypt black bloc revolution

ARISE PEOPLE – EVERYWHERE!

Tahrir Square November 2012

Tahrir Square November 2012

In Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, I have included a selection regarding the revolution in Egypt during the “Arab Spring,” and a piece on the new Russian capitalism, showing that so-called Marxist state socialism and the “dictatorship of the proletariat” were not stages in the transition from capitalism to communism, but from a primitive form of capitalism to a more advanced form, under the aegis of an authoritarian state. This week, Pussy Riot’s video denouncing Vladimir Putin and calling for freedom in Russia was officially condemned, while two member’s of Pussy Riot remain imprisoned. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to impose its own dictatorship, much like the clerics in Iran following the overthrow of the Shah, and the Bolsheviks in Russia following the overthrow of the Czar. I felt it was appropriate then to post these two anarchist proclamations from the Russian Revolution, in which the anarchists denounce the nascent Bolshevik dictatorship and suppression of freedom, calling on the people to arise against their new masters and to create a “sorrowless world, with freedom, love, equality and brotherhood for all people.”

Pussy Riot Protest in Moscow

Pussy Riot Protest in Moscow

ARISE PEOPLE

ARISE PEOPLE!

THE SOCIAL-VAMPIRES ARE DRINKING YOUR BLOOD!

THOSE WHO EARLIER CRIED OUT FOR LIBERTY, FRATERNITY AND EQUALITY ARE CREATING TERRIBLE VIOLENCE!

THE SHOOTING OF PRISONERS IS OCCURRING NOW WITHOUT TRIAL OR INVESTIGATION AND EVEN WITHOUT THEIR ‘REVOLUTIONARY’ TRIBUNAL.

THE BOLSHEVIKS HAVE BECOME MONARCHISTS.

PEOPLE! THE GENDARME’S BOOT IS CRUSHING ALL YOUR BEST FEELINGS AND DESIRES.

THERE IS NO FREE SPEECH, NO FREE PRESS, NO FREE HOUSING. EVERYWHERE THERE IS ONLY BLOOD, MOANS, TEARS AND VIOLENCE.

YOUR ENEMIES SUMMON HUNGER TO HELP THEM IN THEIR STRUGGLE WITH YOU.

ARISE THEN PEOPLE!

DESTROY THE PARASITES WHO TORMENT YOU!

DESTROY ALL WHO OPPRESS YOU!

CREATE YOUR OWN HAPPINESS YOURSELVES. DO NOT TRUST YOUR FATE TO ANYONE.

ARISE PEOPLE! CREATE ANARCHY AND THE COMMUNE!

Anarchy in Greece

Anarchists in Greece

TO THE FLAMES WITH LAW AND AUTHORITY

TERROR, DISCONTENT, HATRED AGAINST EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING.

GROANS OF THE HUNGRY, TEARS OF WIVES, MOTHERS.

PROTESTS AND DESPAIR OF THE ABUSED.

CRIES OF THE SICK AND DYING.

VENGEANCE OF THE WEAK.

THE TRIUMPH OF POVERTY.

REVENGE AND DEFIANCE OF THE INSULTED.

MORE HATE, MORE ANGER AGAINST THIS ENSLAVEMENT!

MAY THIS ODIOUS AND WORTHLESS WORLD ROT!

WORLD OF MASTERS AND SLAVES, WORLD OF ENSLAVERS AND ENSLAVED!

WORLD OF THE SATED AND THE HUNGRY!

AWAY WITH GRIEF AND DEJECTION!

ONWARD TO LIBERTY AND EQUALITY!

PULL DOWN THE PRISON WALLS!

BRING FREEDOM TO ALL THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH!

DESTROY THE CULTURE OF THE OPPRESSORS!

SMASH ‘YOUR’ EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY IDOLS!

CAST ANGER AND HATE TO THE FLAMES!

TO THE FLAMES WITH LAWS AND RULES SET DOWN BY ‘GOD’ AND AUTHORITY!

TEAR UP BY THE ROOTS THIS CONTEMPTIBLE WORLD! AND ON ITS RUINS BUILD A BRIGHT, SORROWLESS WORLD, WITH FREEDOM, LOVE, EQUALITY AND BROTHERHOOD FOR ALL PEOPLE!

Vestnik Anarkhii (Briansk), 14 July 1918

new world

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