A Peaceful Resistance to Freedom and Democracy

The opponents of the tunnel vision


[b]Despite their powerlessness in the last years, some groups in Egypt did not give up the hope for change. Also students were included and even those, who could effort to attend elite-universities, now feel responsible[/b]. By Nermin Ismail and Konstantin Teske

Cairo/Vienna – When on January 25th, the National Police Day, thousands of people went out on the streets in Egypt, some of them held up transparents with the photo of a young man in his twenties, showing his thin face with its fine features – his name: Khaled Said.
They wanted remind about another photo of him, which is circulating in the internet and which shows his disfigured face. In June 2010, two police-officers threw Khaled Said out of a Cybercafé in Alexandria and bludgeoned him to death. Khald Said was belived to have put a video online, showing policemen sharing out the drugs of a raid between them. The offical version was that Khaed Said suffocated when, in panic, he tried to swallow drugs. Only when european diplomats voiced criticism, the policmen were accused of “illegal arrest, using physical brutality”.

“The case of Khaled Said was the final straw for our generation”, says 28 year old Ahmed Adel, who studied machine construction in Alexandria and is now doing his Master in Vienna. Adel joined the protests in Cairo, he says that, at the beginning, the protest were mainly against the brutality and corruption of the police.
But the story of Khaled Said also gives an idea of the feeling of powerlessness this generation had to live with. “We always had the feeling: Egypt is not our country”. A generation, which was exposed to the despotism of the police and other authorities, cut off from real possibilities of political participation, limited in their civil rights and 30% of youth-unemployement: for decades there was “no light at the end of the tunnel”.

Only Egypt has three million of unemployed academics, about 25% of the graduates don’t find any job, and if, than mainly those who had the possibility to study at a private university or abroad. Especially public universities were affected by corruption and nepotism: “More or less the half of the assistants at universities were relatives of professors, and this often was their only qualification. You could complain about that, but nothing would change”, reports Adel on the system of public universities and its parallels in the society.
Step by step, some students at his university raised a political consciousness and developed an ideal which was completely different from the image of carefree young people “who don’t have conflicts with anyone, have partys, sitting in the café all day long and aren’t interested in anything else”, says business-student Ahmad Hossam, 26 years old, who is an activist of the April 6 Youth Movement (see Interview below).

[b]Elite man the online-barricades[/b]

Noticeable is that many popular faces of the protests are graduates from elite universities – especially well known is 30 years old Wael Ghonim, as well as Ashmaa Mafouz, both graduates from the American University in Cairo (AUC) and both experienced in using the internet as a tool to mobilize people.
“As a member of a privileged minority, I feel responsible for helping solving the social problems of this country”, 20 years old AUC-student Roqaye Tbeileh says. Tbeileh is studying journalism and political science, on January 28th, the day when the police was very brutal, she was shot in her legs.

What united the demonstrators was their demand of a change of the regime. Now, after Mubarak is gone, some conflicts may raise between different groups, says Karim El-Gawhary (the correspondent of the Austrian state televison in Cairo, comment): “The people of the middle-class, the students and the well-educated, are mainly striving for political reforms, the workers on the other hand are demanding more social rights. If the workers organize strikes, some members of the middle-class wonder: Why now of all times, when we want to build our new Egypt?”.

Text beside the photography: Daybreak after the revolution: After three weeks of protests, demonstrators tidy up the Tahrir-square in Cairo before they are going to build “a new Egypt”.

About non-violent resistance, the release of politcal detainees and student’s protest: the activist Waleed Rashed talked with Konstantin Teske.

UniStandard: Where does the name April 6 Youth Movement come from?
Rashed: In 2008, a strike was planned for the 6th of April. Short time before our group was founded. The strike was planned by workers from a textil factory in Mahalla al-Kubra, we showed our solidarity with this workers and called for a general strike (even though, strikes were generally forbidden in Egypt, comment).

UniStandard: So your movement has mainly social demands?
Rashed: No, you can’t seperate the social from the political and economic demands. The protests in Mahalla e.g., were against the high food prices and the workers also claimed higher wages. But we also fought for the right of founding independent trade unions. Our movement follows the principles of non-violent resistance, our strategies are similar to those of the Serbian Otpor-movement, which helped to bring Milosevic down.

UniStandard: Who are the members of the movement?
Rashed: Mainly young people with different backgrounds. People who became activists because they felt that it’s her duty to protest against the regime of Mubarak and to make people aware of the corruption of this regime. Before I came to the April 6 Youth Movement, I joined Kifaya (an alliance of different political forces with the goal to end the era Mubarak, founded in 2004, comment). Also Ahmed Maher, the founder of the movement, joined Kifaya before.

UniStandard: Why did just the young people start the revolution?
Rashed: Because they suffer most from unemployement and poverty. Many also could identify with the statement of the popular facebook-site “We are all Khaled Said” – he is symbol for all those who got killed under the emergency laws.

UniStandard: Which role do students play in the movement?
Rashed: Students always played a role in the movement, many of our actions took place at universities and there were also strikes. This actions were often supressed violently, and some students were deterred of taking their exams.

UniStandard: What has to change first now?
Rashed: The emergency laws must come to an end and the political detainees have to be released. We need a whole new constitution, it’s not enough to change only some articles of the constitution. The military has to protect our revolution, not to rule us.

UniStandard: What are your plans for the future? Is it right that you are going to found a party?
Rashed: We are thinking and discussing about it, but we haven’t it decided yet. We got many invitations from different countries, e.g. from France and the USA. End of march some of us will be in Paris to meet with people from the UMP to discuss this issues.

Waleed Rashed studied business and management in Cairo and is the spokesmen of the Egyptian April 6 Youth Movement[/size]