Anarchists in the West get pretty touchy about the usage of the phrase “black bloc.” While the mainstream media has co-opted the term to christen a new movement of furious, state-destroying bank smashers, the anarchists gripe that all it really refers to is the tactic of wearing all black to help preserve your anonymity at a protest or riot.
In Egypt, however, they seem less concerned with the terminology. Modeling themselves on the anti-establishment ideals of their Western counterparts, the Egyptian Black Bloc share the same tactics and uniform, but have adopted the name with its capital letters intact: Black Bloc as anti-Islamist movement, rather than lowercase anti-CCTV strategy.
Young Egyptians claiming affiliation with the group have been turning up to protests in the hundreds to skirmish with progovernment forces. They have no qualms about using violence and have claimed responsibility for the recent firebomb attack on the Muslim Brotherhood’s HQ and the temporary closure of Alexandria’s tramway.
Understandably, this has terrified the Muslim Brotherhood. President Morsi has vowed to crack down on the Black Bloc. Attorney General Talaat Ibrahim has cited them as a terrorist organization, ordering the police and army to arrest anyone suspected of being a member.
Islamist groups such as Jama’a al-Islamiya haven’t taken their emergence too well either, releasing bafflingly vague statements like “the Black Bloc must die.” A countermovement of Islamists calling themselves the White Bloc has also been initiated, but despite all this, the group is growing quickly in numbers, its ranks swollen with plenty of young people who talk about their own deaths in collateral terms.
I managed to get an interview with one of the guys running Egypt’s Black Bloc. He wasn’t exactly chatty, but I guess he’s got more important business to attend to.
VICE: What does the Egyptian Black Bloc represent, ideologically?
Anonymous: The Egyptian Black Bloc holds several different views and doesn’t adhere to one specific ideology. There’s obviously a resemblance in appearance with the European black blocs, though, and we share some of their basic ideas.
Do you guys have any kind of relationship with Anonymous?
There isn’t one, no.
Does the group have any desire for future involvement in Egyptian politics?
We are indeed already involved in Egyptian political life because we are the youth of the revolution.
How did the group form?
It was formed after one of the attacks that took place against people holding a sit-in at the El-Ettihadia Palace, in which activists were targeted.
How has the general public reacted to the group?
In the beginning, the public was afraid of us. But after we protected and defended them our intentions became clearer and people who liked us started appearing. It’s gotten to the point where people have started defending us.