Who’s behind the Egyptian revolution?
It’s spontaneous, yes, triggered by the explosion in Tunisia. But contrary to some media reports, which have portrayed the upsurge in Egypt as a leaderless rebellion, a fairly well organized movement is emerging to take charge, comprising students, labor activists, lawyers, a network of intellectuals, Egypt’s Islamists, a handful of political parties and miscellaneous advocates for “change.” And it’s possible, but not at all certain, that the nominal leadership of the revolution could fall to Mohammad ElBaradei, the former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who returned to Egypt last year to challenge President Mubarak and who founded the National Association for Change.
Let’s look at the emerging coalition, in its parts.
First, by all accounts, is the April 6 Youth Movement. Leftists, socialists and pro-labor people know that the movement takes its name from April 6, 2008, when a series of strikes and labor actions by textile workers in Mahalla led to a growing general strike by workers and residents and then, on April 6, faced a brutal crackdown by security forces. A second, allied movement of young Egyptians developed in response to the killing by police of Khaled Said, a university graduate, in Alexandria. Both the April 6 group and another group, called We Are All Khaled Said, built networks through Facebook, and according to one account the April 6 group has more than 80,000 members on Facebook. The two groups, which work together, are nearly entirely secular, pro-labor and support the overthrow of Mubarak and the creation of a democratic republic.
The leader of the April 6 movement is Ahmad Maher, a 28-year-old construction engineer who was profiled last week in the Los Angeles Times. Well-wired and Internet-connected, Maher told the paper: “After the revolution in Tunisia, we are able to market the idea of change in Egypt. People now want to seize something.” A year ago, when ElBaradei returned to Egypt, Maher was inspired to organize a movement of young, secular, and pro-labor Egyptians. “Maher began reaching out to secular grass-roots and student movements emerging to reform a nation they believed had substituted oppression for vision,” reported the LA Times. “Momentum was slow to build, particularly enlisting Egypt’s increasing band of labor activists representing millions of underpaid workers.”
Their self-description on Facebook reads:
We are a group of Egyptian Youth from different backgrounds, age and trends gathered for a whole year since the renewal of hope in 6 April 2008 in the probability of mass action in Egypt which allowed all kind of youth from different backgrounds, society classes all over Egypt to emerge from the crisis and reach for the democratic future that overcomes the case of occlusion of political and economic prospects that the society is suffering from these days. Most of us did not come from a political background, nor participated in political or public events before 6 April 2008 but we were able to control and determine our direction through a whole year of practice.