CAIRO: Members of Egypt’s April 6 Youth group have called for a general strike, a year after they had made a similar call via social networking website Facebook.
A statement posted on a Facebook group counting over 70,000 members refers to various grievances including corruption, unsatisfactory education in schools, overcrowded public transport and the increasing cost of living, which the statement says “almost certainly make you want to leave the country .
“We can t speak out, and we don t have anyone to talk to. But why should we be scared? And why should we leave the country to them? This is our country, and we re the ones who will change it, the statement reads.
Describing themselves as “young people who love Egypt, the group was founded in the wake of a call for a general strike made in 2008 by various political groups, who called on Egyptians to stay home from work and schools.
Evaluations of the success of the 2008 general strike were mixed; while some observers pointed to Cairo s empty streets and low turnout in schools as evidence of the success of the strike, others maintained that people stayed in their homes out of a desire to avoid possible clashes between protestors and the hundreds of security troops who were deployed on April 6.
While tens of activists were arrested in Cairo, the majority of arrests took place in the Delta town of Mahalla where thousands of people took to the street in protest at rising food prices in an uprising which lasted two days.
Eyewitnesses say that the protest was initially peaceful, only turning violent after security forces attacked protestors.
Three people were killed during the protests. Rights groups allege that live ammunition was used by the police against protestors.
While acknowledging the significance of what at that time in Egypt was a relatively new phenomenon – online activism – commentators question the ability of a web-based call for a strike to garner real support on the ground.
“Internet activists don’t have a leader to guide this movement and neither do they have clear objectives or aims. It is this which made ordinary people in the street ask ‘what will we do on April 6? What are we striking for?’ said leftist journalist Hesham Gabr during a seminar on the April 6 strike held in May 2008.
Many April 6 Youth Movement members themselves do not belong to any political movement. The group s founding statement bans “party propaganda and ideological arguments during group discussions.
“Although the vast majority of us do not belong to any political trend and have no link to politics, we are determined to complete our journey; we believe we can pick up from where others stopped. We are convinced of our ability and our right to change this sad reality, the April 6 Youth Movement s founding statement reads.