Skip to main content

Egypt’s Culture of Violence

Violence has quickly become the norm at protests in Egypt, and is being deployed by both the Islamist government and opposition, Sarah el-Sirgany reports.
A member of the Black Bloc is seen during the protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo January 25, 2013. Egypt marks the second anniversary of the uprising that swept Hosni Mubarak from power with little to celebrate. Deeply divided and facing an economic crisis, the nation is bracing for more protests, but this time against a freely elected leader.REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3CY9J

CAIRO — A man stands in Tahrir square selling black masks. Several hundred meters behind him, youth and police exchange rocks and Molotov cocktails in what has become a regular occurrence. The full-face masks could be used as protection from the police’s teargas, and on that day late January more people were buying them instead of the cheaper and more common surgical masks.

A group calling itself the Black Bloc had released a video earlier announcing the launch of its activities. It’s difficult to verify who made the video or who is an actual member of the group. Still, there was instant interest in it. On that day and the weeks that followed, many bought different variations of that black ski mask, hoping to affiliate themselves with the group and its proclaimed attempt to use more organized violence, whether in defense or offense, under a banner of anarchism. 

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.