The Minister for Industry and Commerce in Bahrain, Hassan Fakhro, has announced the government’s decision to ban the importation of the V for Vendetta/Guy Fawkes masks, reports the Independent. The mask – which has come to represent a universal symbol of protest – has been worn by protesters in the Gulf state calling for democratic reform and the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, a scion of a royal line that has ruled Bahrain for generations.
There have been almost daily demonstrations in Bahrain since the mass protest of Feb. 14, writes the Guardian. The demonstrators continue to call for greater rights for the country’s Shia majority, even though the government denies discriminating against Shias. “The majority of Bahrainis really just want to live in basic dignity and freedom,” Ala’a Shehabi, founder of Bahrain Watch, told the Guardian. “They don’t believe the current royal family is willing to deliver that.”
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The ban on V for Vendetta masks is the latest attempt by the Bahraini government to quell the pro-democracy fever spreading through the country. The Interior ministry has ordered the border regions and port authorities to prevent the masks from being imported. The national ban on the masks means that protesters will no longer be able to hide their identity behind the face of Guy Fawkes.
The mask itself first became popular after the release of the 2005 film V For Vendetta, which was inspired by a graphic novel illustrated by David Lloyd. “The Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest and against tyranny,” the artist told the BBC in late 2011. The masks were first used publicly by the hacker-activist group Anonymous in 2008 during a protest against Scientology, and later gained popularity through the 2011/12 ‘Occupy Movements’ across the globe. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrived to speak at the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest in 2011 wearing the mask.
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The mask itself is a stylized interpretation of Guy (Guido) Fawkes, a member of a group of subversives who took part in an attempt to assassinate King James I in the failed 1605 ‘Gunpowder Plot.’
Bahrain has become the second Gulf country to ban the mask, following a decision by the United Arab Emirates in Nov. 2012 to make the Guy Fawkes disguise illegal.