The eye patch as a symbol of resistance in Egypt


 The use of snipers in Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Yemen to shoot unarmed protesters who are resisting their oppressive regimes has been a feature of the uprisings across the Middle East in 2011. In Egypt the snipers who were shooting at protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo specialized in shooting people in the head, especially the eyes. One report in The Guardian newspaper claimed over 80 people had been shot in the eye since the uprising began in January. Perhaps because the protesters were beginning to see clearly the nature of their oppressors and the need to overthrow them; perhaps because the regime wanted to return the people to a state of blindness and  ignorance; or perhaps the snipers were just malicious thugs - who knows exactly why they targeted the eyes.

Some of the injured returned to protesting wearing white eye patches to protect their injuries and this quickly became a symbol of the resistance. Famous statues around the square (of a popular singer and the lion guarding the square at the Qasr al-Nil bridge) were outfitted with eye patches.  Wall graffiti of the injured were painted and photographed by supporters of the revolt. 





Here are some more examples:

[Below] "Protesters take a nap beneath graffiti with two eye patches symbolizing protesters wounded during recent clashes between police and demonstrators, at a protest encampment in front of the cabinet building in Cairo, Egypt Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011. An Egyptian Cabinet led by newly appointed prime minister Kamal el-Ganzouri was sworn in last Wednesday amid continuing calls for the ruling military council and its interim government to step down. The Arabic writing reads, "slap him in the face and tell the liars that his cheek is rose.""


Another piece of wall grafiitti:


The white eye patch has became the symbol of the victim of state terror in Egypt. It also is the symbol of the perpetrator of this terror and is deeply linked to a long tradition in western culture of one eyed monsters who kill or eat the flesh of humans. In Egypt, wall graffiti of those responsible for these policies and also of one of the more feared snipers who was supposed to have been particularly expert at shooting people in the eyes also appeared. One in particular has been mentioned in reports, Mahmoud Sobhi El Shinawi, who is a CSF (Central Security Forces) officer who has been nicknamed the "Eye Hunter". In graffiti he has been depicted wearing a blood red eye patch as a symbol of his crimes. See below:


The one eyed killer of men reminds one of the ancient Greek giants the Cyclopes who create from their forges the weapons of Zeus (thunderbolts), Hades (helmet), and Poseidon (trident). 


[Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, "Polyphemus" (1802) (Landesmuseum Oldenburg)]


[Cosimo Tura (c.1430 – 1495), "September: The Workshop of Vulkan" (Freso at the Palazzo Schifanoia, 1476-1484) showing cyclopes creating weapons and armor in Vulkan's workshop]

In Euripides' play "The Cyclops" the cyclops is described as a beast which hunts and kills humans and cooks their flesh for food. In the 19thC liberal poet Percy Bysshe Shelley's translation of Euripides's play <> Ulysses describes their eating habits in the following way:

And when this God-abandoned cook of hell
Had made all ready, he seized two of us
And killed them in a kind of measured manner;
For he flung one against the brazen rivets
Of the huge cauldron, and seized the other
By the foot’s tendon, and knocked out his brains
Upon the sharp edge of the craggy stone:
Then peeled his flesh with a great cooking knife
And put him down to roast. The other’s limbs
He chopped into the cauldron to be boiled.
And I, with the tears raining from my eyes,
Stood near the Cyclops, ministering to him;
The rest, in the recesses of the cave,
Clung to the rock like bats, bloodless with fear.
When he was filled with my companions flesh,
He threw himself upon the ground and sent
A loathsome exhalation from his maw…

Ulysses defeats the cyclops by getting him drunk on wine and then putting out his one eye with a burning stick;

When vanquished by the Bacchic power, he sleeps,
There is a trunk of olive wood within,
Whose point having made sharp with this good sword
I will conceal in fire, and when I see
It is alight, will fix it, burning yet,
Within the socket of the Cyclops’ eye
And melt it out with fire—as when a man
Turns by its handle a great auger round,
Fitting the frame work of a ship with beams,
So will I, in the Cyclops’ fiery eye
Turn round the brand and dry the pupil up.

One-eyed killers were also a key part of the Doctor Who saga (from 1963) in which cyborgs known as Daleks fight the Time Lord Dr. Who across the universe. Their well known war cry is "Exterminate!":


[Dalek Sec before he became encased in his mechanical body]


[One eyed Daleks with their glowing eye]

Posted: Sunday - January 01, 2012 at 09:42 AM