Senior founders of the April 6 Youth Movement were keen to get one message across loud and clear in a press conference Tuesday: they would never receive any foreign financial support or training.
Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that democracy-building campaigns undertaken by US agencies have been nurturing some of the widespread revolutions in the region, including Egypt.
The newspaper’s report, published 14 April and based on a WikiLeaks document, claimed that the April 6 Movement, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Yemeni rights activist Entsar Qadhi had received training and funding by the likes of the International Republican Institute and Freedom House.
Other reports said the ruling French party Union for a Popular Movement had invited members of the Egyptian group to a celebration in Paris to honour them for their role in the January 25 Revolution, implying that the youth movement has a hidden agenda.
Meanwhile, a rift among the April 6 members has been deepening, with some alleging that Ahmed Maher, the group’s founder and general coordinator, is seeking to turn the group into a civil community organisation that could later officially cooperate with other institutes abroad.
Maher was the first of several co-founders to speak in the news conference and thoroughly go through the allegations. On the WikiLeaks document, he said: “A translator who used to work for us paid periodical visits that we knew nothing about to the American Embassy in Egypt.
“No sooner had we known about that than we released more than one statement, warnings that this person does not represent the movement. He was just a friend who offered his services to help us communicate with foreign media, but he’s not one of us.
“So that document might be correct but it’s about someone who doesn’t belong to the April 6 Movement. We categorically refuse to receive any financial support from any foreign entities; this contradicts with our code…New York Times should have verified such information by contacting these [foreign] organisations.”
Mahmoud Afifi, part of the movement’s political department, sees The New York Times’ claims as part of a bigger scheme. “The US wants to come across as democracy promoters; it tries to take the credit for all revolutions in the Middle East. The New York Times piece is a purely American crime; the writer is American and so is the paper, and of course it’s based in the US so it’s kind of hard to file a complaint to the prosecutor-general now.”
Speaking of the movement’s relationship with France’s ruling party, Maher told the news conference: “Other bloggers and political activists indeed went to France after being invited. We have no reservations about that, but we didn’t go to France and get training about how to establish political organizations and parties.
“There have recently been a lot of rumours circulated by the electronic committee of the [dismantled] National [Democratic] Party and all those who have been upset at the revolution. They are trying to imply that it was instigated by other countries… the revolt was 100 per cent Egyptian.”
Maher, an Alexandria-born engineer, also stressed that the April 6 Movement has never planned to reinvent itself as a civil community organization, saying younger members of the movement “baselessly” said so.
“We want to play a political role, like the parties. The difference, however, is that we are not after power; this has been one of our main terms. But younger members baselessly said otherwise…they should have held discussions with the rest of the members instead of circulating rumours,” Maher elaborated.
Walid Rashed, a spokesman for the April 6 Movement since 2008, voiced his displeasure at journalists who quote people “unauthorized” to talk on behalf of the movement, and build stories about its future and plans based on these statements.
“Can I tell you now that Essam El-Erian no longer belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood? I really cannot understand why anyone says he represents the April 6 Movement you take his word for granted,” Rashed said, adopting a tough tone. “The movement has its official website and well-known spokespersons, you [reporters] can’t listen to all unauthorized people who claim they represent us.
“We don’t want to be a political party or a civil community organization, at least not for now. But we are calling for the introduction of legislation that gives us legitimacy as a movement. We are trying to apply a pattern that has never existed in Egypt…we want to serve our country,” he explained.