The Guy Fawkes masks associated with online hacking group Anonymous have been prohibited in Saudi Arabia according to a report by official news agency, SPA. On Thursday, May 30, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif ordered confiscation of the masks and a ban on their further importation.
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The news agency reports that the Saudi interior ministry has ordered all police stations to conduct a massive operation in order to find, confiscate, and destroy any Guy Fawkes masks existing in the country.
The Saudi authorities stated that these masks promote “a culture of violence and extremism” and “encourages young people to breach security and spread chaos in society.”
The response on social networks to the ban was immediate, with thousands of internet users around the world declaring the measure a direct attack on human rights. Saudi authorities have refused to comment when asked for a statement.
Saudi Arabia, a monarchy whose leaders and people live in abundance due to is lucrative oil exports, is one of the few Arab nations free of sanctions for human rights violations due to its proximity with United States policy.
The Anonymous Mask features Guy Fawkes, an English revolutionary from the 17th century who was a key player in the Gunpowder Plot, a plan to blow up the British Parliament and install a Catholic monarchy. The mask was popularized by the recent movie, “V for Vendetta.”
The mask was then adopted by the international hacker group, Anonymous, which was founded in 2003 to carry out internet activism. The group conceives of itself a decentralized group of internet users functioning as a global brain. Anonymous largely consists of various image boards and internet forums. Lacking a defined leader, they use these means to coordinate protests.
Arab governments consider the masks even more of a threat as they have come to represent a universal symbol of protest, and of hope and justice, including during the Arab Spring demonstrations.