Kefaya and April 6 Youth Movement: Post-revolution allegations in Egypt

Zeinab El-Gundy, Saturday 30 Jul 2011

As political movements and potential presidential candidates gain greater prominence in Egypt, Ahram Online takes a closer look at the nature of the military council's allegations against the April 6 Youth Movement and Kefaya

Kifaya demonstration
Archive photo of a Kifaya demonstration.(Photo:AP)

Last week, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) accused the April 6 Youth movement in an official statement of turning the people against the Egyptian army. SCAF member Major General Hassan El-Roweiny spoke on TV about how the famous political movement was funded by foreign countries and had foreign agendas despite its undeniable important role in the Egyptian revolution. He also stated that an older movement, Kefaya, was originally a foreign movement.

The statements shocked many in Egypt's political scene, including the movements and its members themselves. Mohamed Adel, the April 6 Movement’s spokesperson told Ahram Online that the movement expected attacks because of its participation in the current sit-in at Tahrir Square, but they did not imagine it would reach such a level.

Potential presidential candidates demanded that SCAF revise its policies and present any evidence that would incriminate April 6th or any other movement or group to the general prosecutor to investigate these allegations. During his visit to El-Masryeen El-Ahrar party headquarters, potential presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei stated that accusing the April 6th movement without any evidence was a huge mistake on SCAF’s part. Potential presidential candidate and former chief of staff Magdy Hatata rejected treason charges against any political group that participated in the revolution and demanded SCAF disclose its evidence to the public.

On her official twitter account, potential presidential candidate Bothiana Kamel announced on the same night the military council issued its statement that she would be joining the April 6th movement.

Political activist Ibrahim El-Houdaiby told Ahram Online that the military council seemed to be evading its problems and acting as if the April 6th movement was controlling the street.

The public accusations have affected the movements' members, especially since they came at a sensitive time with several political movements, and the April 6th Youth movement among those at the forefront, organizing a march to the ministry of defense on 23 July. Originally, it was to be a march against military trials but after the allegations many marched in solidarity with the movement. The march eventually turned into a clash between Abbassiya residents and the protesters.

Human rights researcher, activist and blogger Amr Gharbeia was abducted from El-Demerdesh metro station near Abbassiya Square by a group of citizens who suspected him of being a spy and an April 6 member intent on occupying the Ministry of Defence.

Those who who arrested Gharbeia were civilians and believed till the last moment that they were serving the nation despite breaking the law. One of the kidnappers, Hassan Ghandour, spoke on ON TV’s 'Last Talk' show on Monday night to brag about how he abducted Gharbeia without giving any justification or even realising he was breaking the law in the first place.

Gharbeia was arrested and taken to the military police then to the general intelligence building then to a police station by these citizens, who likely considered themselves the "honorable respectable citizens" SCAF statements had urged to stand against conspirators and saboteurs.

During the early hours of Gharbeia’s disappearance some photos appeared on pro-Mubarak Facebook pages showing Israeli American alleged spy Illan Grapel in Tahrir Square with someone that looked like Gharbeia but was not actually him, in order to illustrate the treachery of the April 6th movement.

Earlier this week Egyptian state TV aired a photo showing Mohamed Adel, the movement’s spokesperson, holding a rifle, claiming that it was taken in Serbia during the military training he received there. The photo was not actually taken in Serbia but in Gaza in January 2008 before April 6th movement came into the spotlight. Adel was visiting the sector and took a photo with an old Palestinian veiled lady whose late son was a Hamas fighter killed by the Israeli defense forces. Egyptian state TV aired the photo after it was doctored to exclude the old lady. The April 6th movement released the original photo, with additional data about the backstory of the visit, to broadcast media, websites and newspapers. Till now there has been no response, explanation or apology from state TV regarding the allegedly incriminating photo.

Privately-owned media, from TV channels to newspaper, are maintaining a neutral position that often favours the April 6 Youth, with many op-eds in Tahrir daily newspaper and Al Shorouk daily newspaper defending the movement. Talk shows on major private TV channels like ON TV and Tahrir TV discussed the matter, hosting members of the April 6 Movement and Kefaya movements to defend themselves.

Yet some privately-owned TV channels attacked the movements, especially April 6, even more viciously than the Egyptian state TV, such as the religious Salafist channels, which consider the movements offensively secular.

Naturally, the debate about the movements also found a home in the social networks, especially Facebook. Last Wednesday a group of activists were shocked to find a Facebook page, sharing its members' home addresses and phone numbers, asking people to attack those "traitors". ElBaradei and political activist Asama Mahfouz’s home addresses were among the home addresses shared on the page. Thousands of Facebook users reported the page as one that promotes violence. A few hours later, the Facebook page was removed. There are many anti-April 6 pages and groups on Facebook which are generally against the revolution and pro-Mubarak.

The accusations against the movement were not surprising, especially since the movement itself does not deny that it was influenced by the famous Otpor! Serbian democratic youth movement, as well as other mostly-young grassroots political movements across the world, especially in South America and Eastern Europe.

The movement also that did not deny that a group of its founders traveled to Serbia to learn from the experience of Optor! experience, along with activists from many other countries. It not only adopted their logo, it also took their advice. When Optor! turned into a political party, it did poorly in the Serbian parliamentary elections and its members soon left the group to join other political parties. The American political support to the Serbian movement would haunt it, and all young grassroots political movements around the world inspired by its tactics and actions, including April 6. This is despite the fact that April 6 fought, and continues to fight, the Mubarak regime, which was regarded as the most Pro-American regime in the region.

The April 6 Movement was originally formed in the spring of 2008 with a small event on Facebook (relatively new to Egypt at the time) that called for a general strike in Egypt on 6 April 6 in solidarity with workers in Mahalla.In the end the vast majority of people stayed at home, especially in Cairo, while a popular uprising took place in Mahalla. The Mahalla uprising has now come to be considered one of the primary precursors to the January 25 revolution.

Despite its role in the revolution, the April 6 Youth Movement has begun to lose some of its lustre with the emergence of new parties and movements in the opening political scene. This is compounded further by growing differences among its own members, leading to the movement splitting in to two fronts: the democratic front led by Amr Ezz and the Ahmed Maher front.

The April 6 Youth Movement was not the only political movement to be accused by the military council. “The Egyptian movement for Change” – better known as Kafeya – was denounced in a statement on television by Major General Hassan El-Roweiny, a member of military council and commander of the central military zone. El-Roweiny claimed that Kefaya was a foreign movement as “Kafeya” was actually a foreign word, “Kafa.”

George Ishak, one of Kefaya’s founders and its first coordinator, told Ahram Online that none of El-Roweiny’s pronouncements were true and that all the founders are well known Egyptian figures, such the late Dr. Abdel Wahab El Messiri, Magdy Hussein, Amin Iskander, Karima Hafnay. Ishak added that it seemed the major general had some information and decided to share it publicly without ascertaining whether or not it was true. Founded in 2004, the Egyptian movement for change, or Kefaya, was considered a mother movement in the history of the January 25 revolution with its simple protests and its members that paid huge price in time of Mubarak that reached to the level of attack, humiliation and even imprisonment.

Both Kefaya and April 6 El-Roweiny to the prosecutor-general, accusing him of igniting the public. The prosecutor-general subsequently referred the matter to the military prosecution for investigation as the case concerns a military figure. April 6, with its two “Ahmed Maher” and “Amr Ezzat” front, has availed itself of the prosecutor-general so that he may investigate the movement, its funds and travel records and they can defend themselves against the military council’s accusations.

Both movements have demanded an official apology from the military council.

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