Egypt's Black Bloc grew out of a struggle for liberation from an authoritarian system, only after non-violent civil efforts had failed. Not to be confused with America's Black Bloc, which is friend to likes of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's Black Bloc is an enemy to their country's new Islamist rulers and fights for democracy and legitimate government.
Clad in black garb and ski masks, the faceless and nameless Black Bloc soldiers lock arms to create a human shield in defense of pro-freedom protesters -- the Black Bloc's number-one priority -- in the streets and squares of Egypt. Experts in martial arts and ostensibly military-trained, Black Bloc warriors only recently surfaced in Egypt to safeguard fellow freedom-fighters from their arch-enemies, the foes of democracy: President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas gangs.
Originating out of a plan to protect women protesters from sexual assault, this huge band of men and women numbering in the thousands (the exact number is not known) form a dedicated and determined corps of combatants divided into local groups of 30-50 individuals.
The secret members of the "elite" Black Bloc guard first appeared in the streets of Cairo this January, when revolutionaries commemorated their two-year anniversary with protests in Tahrir Square. Now everywhere the Egyptian opposition stages protests, the rank-and-file Black Bloc, whose leaders remain unknown to them, dutifully move in to police the area on behalf of fellow protesters.
Deemed "terrorists" and "outlaws" by the Morsi regime, the shadowy Zorro-like heroes refer to their network as the "United Ghosts Revolution" and represent a just cause in the ongoing rebellion against Egypt's Islamist government. The Black Bloc mission is to ensure that no more assaults, kidnappings, and torture occur from Morsi's security forces [the Muslim Brotherhood militia] and so-called law enforcement. Many Black Bloc members carry firearms, most likely acquired through the illegal networks smuggling weapons from Libya and Gaza.
If the best defense is a good offense, the forceful Black Bloc has aggressively expanded its scope beyond the scene of gathered protesters and their protection. With a physical presence in more than eight cities across Egypt, the anonymous soldiers have claimed responsibility for ransacking at least eight separate Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party offices.
At first, the shrouded Black Bloc raised fears; the public saw them as terrorists. This wrong impression, however, was soon dispelled as their image as guardians took shape. Appearing first in the social media, the Black Bloc now has the moral support of more than 57,000 Facebook members for the purpose of countering Islamic supremacy and brutality.
Their core concern is to facilitate the pursuit of Western-style democracy. Its members claim no affiliation with existing political parties, as the group states that it "aims only to stand against the Muslim Brotherhood and any group exploiting religion to achieve political goals." Their challenge to the Muslim Brotherhood has prompted a new crackdown by President Morsi and his Prime Minister, Hasham Kandil. The state now targets opposition protesters who wear black, tracking those who do and conducting investigations. By mid-February, Morsi began arresting members of Black Bloc and its sympathizers.
Running under the banner of "Allah, Country, Revolution," the "outlaws" have been accused by Islamists of having Israeli backing and connections to Western funding.
In keeping with their mission statement, Egypt's Black Bloc members claim 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."
Ashraf Ramelah is on the Advisory Board of SION (Stop Islamization of Nations) and president of Voice of the Copts, a human rights organization. In 2010, VOTC sued the Mubarak regime, which refused to change the religious ID card of a Muslim convert to Christianity.