Guy Fawkes in MENA: How a failed British terrorist got play in the modern Middle East

Published January 21st, 2016 - 12:56 GMT

In 1605, a young Englishman named Guy Fawkes tried to plant a massive bomb beneath the British Parliament. The goal was to kill the king--a Protestant--and replace him with his nine-year-old daughter, who Fawkes and his co-conspirators believed would give greater power to England’s Catholics.

It wasn’t meant to be. Fawkes was caught in the basement of the House of Lords with three dozen barrels of gunpowder, which he said was designed to “blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains.” The Protestant monarchy of England had him tortured before sentencing him to death. Though Fawkes managed to kill himself before the King could have the pleasure of hanging him in the Old Palace Yard, his corpse was still drawn-and-quartered as a warning to other would-be insurgents.

Jump to 1982, when English writer Alan Moore publishes the graphic novel “V For Vendetta.” The story is set in a bombed-out dystopian future where an anarchist named “V” attempts to bring down the fascist government that has come to power after a large nuclear attack. Throughout the story, “V” wears a mask of Guy Fawkes’s face.

When "V For Vendetta" was turned into a movie in 2006, the plastic masks went on sale all over the world. Not long afterwards, during the rise of Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street, the mask became popular as a way for anti-establishment protesters to show their resistance to the status-quo while simultaneously concealing their identities.

The mask’s symbolic value carried over into the Arab Spring. In places like Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria--where military regimes had little tolerance for dissent--the mask was a convenient way to stay anonymous. Alan Moore--the author of “V For Vendetta”--told The Guardian: “It feels like a character I created 30 years ago has somehow escaped the realm of fiction.”

 
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guy fawkes egypt

In 2011, protesters in Egypt calling for the overthrow of dictator Hosni Mubarak wore Guy Fawkes masks as a symbol of resistance to tyranny. The mask was also worn by angry Egyptians who scaled the walls of the US embassy in Cairo and yanked down the American flag in 2012 after the controversial film “The Innocence of Muslims” was released.

In Bahrain, the Sunni-dominated government of this tiny island nation banned the importation of Guy Fawkes masks in the winter of 2013 after thousands of protesters--who mostly hail from the country’s large Shia majority--donned the masks to conceal their identities while agitating in the streets for greater civil liberties.

In Bahrain, the Sunni-dominated government of this tiny island nation banned the importation of Guy Fawkes masks in the winter of 2013 after thousands of protesters--who mostly hail from the country’s large Shia majority--donned the masks to conceal their identities while agitating in the streets for greater civil liberties.

uae guy fawkes

The UAE had no Arab Spring, yet police still declared the Guy Fawkes mask illegal in 2012, fearing that Emiratis would sport the disguise during the UAE’s National Day, which celebrates independence from Britain. “Using any symbol that insults the country or instigates unrest against its system is not allowed,” an official told Gulf News.

saudi arabia guy fawkes

Saudi Arabia banned the import & sale of Guy Fawkes masks in 2013, saying the visage created a “culture of violence.” The nation’s interior minister even called for existing masks in the Kingdom to be confiscated & destroyed. Yet local media reported that the masks were still on sale & that some shopkeepers hadn’t even heard about the ban.

palestinian guy fawkes

In 2014, after a 22-year-old Palestinian protester in a Guy Fawkes mask was shot dead by Israeli soldiers, hacktivist group Anonymous threatened Israel with an “electronic Holocaust.” The hacking campaign--dubbed #OpIsrael--defaced government websites and posted the phone numbers and home addresses of Israeli officials.

lebanon guy fawkes

In August, a Guy-Fawkes-clad Anonymous member urged Lebanese demonstrators involved in the country’s “You Stink” protests to keep up the fight by releasing an ominous video, which quickly went viral. The video gave advice for how to carry out a revolution, such as: Keep police on your side, because “the real enemies are the politicians.”

turkey guy fawkes

In 2013, when the Turkish government tried to destroy a popular park in Istanbul & replace it with a mall, massive protests rocked the city for weeks. During that time, a viral video showed hundreds of Turkish Airlines flight attendants staging a coordinated dance to advocate for better wages. The workers wore Guy Fawkes masks for anonymity.

jordan guy fawkes

In 2011 and 2012, protesters in Jordan inspired by the Arab Spring demanded democratic reforms and better jobs from the King Abdullah monarchy. The Guy Fawkes mask was worn by some protesters, and also in 2014 by members of the Muslim Brotherhood during demonstrations in support of Gaza. Jordan never banned the mask.

guy fawkes masks

In the years since the Arab Spring began, anti-government agitators from Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Tunisia, and Libya have all donned the mask as a symbol of determined opposition. Hopefully their revolution will turn out better than Guy Fawkes’s did: Fawkes was caught, tortured and convicted of high treason before he could enact meaningful change.

guy fawkes egypt
In Bahrain, the Sunni-dominated government of this tiny island nation banned the importation of Guy Fawkes masks in the winter of 2013 after thousands of protesters--who mostly hail from the country’s large Shia majority--donned the masks to conceal their identities while agitating in the streets for greater civil liberties.
uae guy fawkes
saudi arabia guy fawkes
palestinian guy fawkes
lebanon guy fawkes
turkey guy fawkes
jordan guy fawkes
guy fawkes masks
guy fawkes egypt
In 2011, protesters in Egypt calling for the overthrow of dictator Hosni Mubarak wore Guy Fawkes masks as a symbol of resistance to tyranny. The mask was also worn by angry Egyptians who scaled the walls of the US embassy in Cairo and yanked down the American flag in 2012 after the controversial film “The Innocence of Muslims” was released.
In Bahrain, the Sunni-dominated government of this tiny island nation banned the importation of Guy Fawkes masks in the winter of 2013 after thousands of protesters--who mostly hail from the country’s large Shia majority--donned the masks to conceal their identities while agitating in the streets for greater civil liberties.
In Bahrain, the Sunni-dominated government of this tiny island nation banned the importation of Guy Fawkes masks in the winter of 2013 after thousands of protesters--who mostly hail from the country’s large Shia majority--donned the masks to conceal their identities while agitating in the streets for greater civil liberties.
uae guy fawkes
The UAE had no Arab Spring, yet police still declared the Guy Fawkes mask illegal in 2012, fearing that Emiratis would sport the disguise during the UAE’s National Day, which celebrates independence from Britain. “Using any symbol that insults the country or instigates unrest against its system is not allowed,” an official told Gulf News.
saudi arabia guy fawkes
Saudi Arabia banned the import & sale of Guy Fawkes masks in 2013, saying the visage created a “culture of violence.” The nation’s interior minister even called for existing masks in the Kingdom to be confiscated & destroyed. Yet local media reported that the masks were still on sale & that some shopkeepers hadn’t even heard about the ban.
palestinian guy fawkes
In 2014, after a 22-year-old Palestinian protester in a Guy Fawkes mask was shot dead by Israeli soldiers, hacktivist group Anonymous threatened Israel with an “electronic Holocaust.” The hacking campaign--dubbed #OpIsrael--defaced government websites and posted the phone numbers and home addresses of Israeli officials.
lebanon guy fawkes
In August, a Guy-Fawkes-clad Anonymous member urged Lebanese demonstrators involved in the country’s “You Stink” protests to keep up the fight by releasing an ominous video, which quickly went viral. The video gave advice for how to carry out a revolution, such as: Keep police on your side, because “the real enemies are the politicians.”
turkey guy fawkes
In 2013, when the Turkish government tried to destroy a popular park in Istanbul & replace it with a mall, massive protests rocked the city for weeks. During that time, a viral video showed hundreds of Turkish Airlines flight attendants staging a coordinated dance to advocate for better wages. The workers wore Guy Fawkes masks for anonymity.
jordan guy fawkes
In 2011 and 2012, protesters in Jordan inspired by the Arab Spring demanded democratic reforms and better jobs from the King Abdullah monarchy. The Guy Fawkes mask was worn by some protesters, and also in 2014 by members of the Muslim Brotherhood during demonstrations in support of Gaza. Jordan never banned the mask.
guy fawkes masks
In the years since the Arab Spring began, anti-government agitators from Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Tunisia, and Libya have all donned the mask as a symbol of determined opposition. Hopefully their revolution will turn out better than Guy Fawkes’s did: Fawkes was caught, tortured and convicted of high treason before he could enact meaningful change.