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Bahrain Bans Import of Protest Masks

The Kingdom of Bahrain recently banned the importation of masks like this one.
The Kingdom of Bahrain has taken the unusual step of banning the importation of stylized Guy Fawkes masks, which were made popular in the 2005 movie V for Vendetta. In the movie, the main character, who seeks to overthrow the British government, wears the mask.

Bahrain’s minister of industry and commerce, Hassan Fakhro, announced the ban saying anyone who is caught importing the mask faces arrest.

The masks have become a global symbol of protest, and the de facto symbols of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement and the Anonymous online activist group. The mask also was frequently seen in many protests during the so-called Arab Spring as well as in the London riots of 2011.

Abbas Al Omran, a member of the British-based Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said he didn't think the ban would have much effect, as there are already many of the masks in Bahrain, and the masks can still be sneaked in or even made at home.

In the United States, the masks are readily available online for less than $10.

Bahrain is the second Gulf state to ban the masks. Last November, the United Arab Emirates also forbid wearing the iconic masks.

The Kingdom of Bahrain has been dealing with internal dissent since 2011 when Shi’ite groups demanded democratic reforms and an end to what they said was the Sunni monarchy's discrimination against them.

Bahrain's government put down the demonstrations in March 2011, sending security forces to clear a protest encampment in Manama and inviting in troops from neighboring Sunni-led Gulf states to restore order.