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April 6 - Where Do We Go from Here?
April 6 - Where Do We Go from Here?
The Associated Press has all but declared today’s much anticipated April 6 Youth Movement general strike a failure
Friday, April 10,2009 22:44
egypt.foreignpolicyblogs.com

The Associated Press has all but declared today’s much anticipated April 6 Youth Movement general strike a failure.

The movement had been hoping to stage numerous protests and demonstrations in the wake of last year’s April 6 strike, which led to the death of three Egyptians, the wounding of dozens, and hundreds of arrests.

As there have already been a number of reports about today’s events I am simply going to highlight a few interesting points. Sarah Carr’s report in the Daily News Egypt and this article from the Middle East Times are useful sources of background information.

1. Use of the media

April 6 boasts a flourishing online media campaign. It has a network of bloggers and “Twitters,” a number of Facebook pages, and uses fancy graphics and banners. This is clearly a youth driven movement, and they know how to use the internet. We have already witnessed the Egyptian opposition’s use of the internet to publicize the detention of various bloggers and activists and to spread the news of the Hussein bombing.

Here is a link to the official April 6 blog, and here is their statement of purpose in English.

2. April 6’s strength and the Egyptian political opposition

While a Facebook group boasting tens of thousands of members may be able to reach a wide audience, there remains the challenge of translating this “online power” into “street power.” Tens of thousands of people were not protesting on the streets of Cairo today. In addition, many of Egypt’s main opposition groups and personalities, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Ayman Nour and the Ghad Party, as well as a number of trade unions, gave only their vocal support to April 6.

Here are some quotes from the Daily News Egypt:

“As for April 6, 2009, we share in the anger but not in the strike. We share in the anger on the basis that we feel anger at the deterioration of conditions in Egypt. We express it in several ways; all political forces have their method of expression and all will commemorate April 6 in their own way.” - Ayman Nour

“The Youth Movement has done a good job of using the media to spread the protest message but it’s still too early to talk about a national industrial strike when the workers’ movement faces the obstacle of the state’s oppressive security apparatus.”- Saber Barakat, member of the Workers and Trade Union Freedoms Coordinating Committee

“Before we take a position on April 6 we have to answer a fundamental question: are opposition forces currently capable of organizing a successful general strike?” - Tadamon

3. Why was April 6 not more successful?

Arrests in the past couple of days of everyone from Brotherhood figures to university students handing out flyers have certainly put pressure on the movement. In addition, there was an immense police presence, especially downtown and at the sites where the protests were scheduled to take place. Last year’s deaths, injuries, and arrests may also have contributed to people’s apprehension about coming out and taking the risk. In addition, for some Egyptians, the loss of a day’s wages might be enough to deter them from taking part in a strike that they see as unlikely to effect real change.

Here is a telling quote from the Egyptian opposition group Tadamon from the Daily News Egypt:

“We believe that the answer is no. April 6 will not be a general strike however much it is hoped that it would be. … It is not expected that many workers and popular movements will adopt the call for the strike. In our opinion what will most likely happen is a smaller version of April 6, 2008, that is April 6, 2009 will take place without Mahalla — stripping it of much of its weight.”

The strength of last year’s strike was in large part due to protests against low wages and rising inflation. Evidently, workers did not participate as they did last year.

Yesterday, a number of Egypt’s opposition groups announced the formation of the Egyptian Coalition for Change (ECC). Prominent Egyptian writers Sonallah Ibrahim, Alaa Al-Aswany, Kefaya leader Abdel Halim Qandeel, and representatives from the Journalists’ Syndicate have all joined. The group has released a “manifesto” calling for the NDP to step down, the formation of a coalition government, an end to emergency rule, an expansion of democratic freedoms, and an annulment of the Camp David treaty with Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood has yet to officially join the coalition.

Although it supports April 6, it seems that the Egyptian political opposition is taking a more cautious and calculated approach, which may have weakened April 6’s ability to mobilize. The opposition’s hesitation to participate in the protests may be a result of its experience dealing with the intricacies and the hidden red lines of the Egyptian political system.

Furthermore, media coverage in general certainly benefits both the newly formed ECC and April 6. However, the Egyptian government has an uncanny ability to just simply disregard this internal domestic pressure by arresting a few hundred people and pretending (despite sending out thousands of armed state security officers) that nothing has happened. Of course, there was little to no mention of April 6 in any of the state-sponsored papers.  Opposition and  independent papers such as Al-Masri Al-Youm, Al-Dustour, and Al-Shurouq gave the ECC and April 6 significant coverage.

And what are the implications of all of this for the Obama administration and the promotion of democracy in the region? Will President Obama respond to the April 6 movement and the continued detention of bloggers and political activists?

If you’d like to see a play by play of the past couple of days’ events and a variety of Egyptian sources including bloggers and various news sources, I will once again direct you to the Egyptian Chronicles blog which has a very detailed account of what has been going on.

The Source


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