CAIRO: For the first time since 2008, the April 6 Youth Movement commemorated its anniversary without holding demonstrations or running away from the police, Ahmed Maher, the movement’s general coordinator said at a conference held at the Journalists’ Syndicate to celebrate the movement’s third anniversary.
However, while Maher’s speech was met with a loud round of applause, questions loom over its future and the unity of its members.
Previously known as a "resistance movement" Maher announced that April 6 will now turn into a political civic organization that accepts donations and works in social and development projects and creating political awareness.
"We have discussed all ideas suggesting that we turn into a political party but we chose to be a pressure group in this period and participate in establishing a new political regime in Egypt that would lead to a civil democratic state that respects social justice," Maher said.
"We are also working on developing the movement’s administrative system where the founders’ role becomes an advisory one, allowing new blood in the movement’s leadership," he added.
However, some members reject the idea of turning the movement into a political organization, threatening the unity among the movement’s members.
"After the revolution, we were surprised to find that Maher took this decision without consulting us and we had to accept it," said Mostafa Fouad, student and member of April 6.
"The revolution isn’t over yet for us to become a civil organization whose funding sources are shrouded with doubt," he added.
He explained that April 6 should continue as a resistance group throughout the transitional period Egypt is going through and then turn into an official party.
"Maher insists on turning the movement into an organization but we on the other hand will continue as a movement," Fouad said.
Fouad joined the movement after the return of Mohamed ElBaradei to Egypt, saying it was the only group that practices politics for the youth rather than just the elite.
Mohamed Mosalem, a new April 6 member, joined the movement on the Jan. 25 after taking part in the protests and said that he is now reconsidering his membership.
"Now the movement is turning towards social work and its leaders are interested more in appearing in the media and attending conferences while we now must begin fieldwork to create awareness among the public," he said.
Mosalem’s first meeting with the movement was after the resignation of Hosni Mubarak where they were set to discuss the future of the movement. However, Mosalem said he walked out of the meeting when he arguments erupted, making it hard for anyone to convey their point of view.
Some opposition figures called for unity within the movement.
"We still have a long way to protect the revolution and it might be better for April 6 to continue with this format in the meantime before entering competition with other political streams," said Mohamed El-Beltagy, former Muslim Brotherhood MP.
Many of political movements like Kefaya and the National Association for Change are now considering either disbanding or turning into formal registered civil groups.
Hamdy Qandil, former spokesperson for the National Association for Change, said that although the revolution isn’t over yet, everyone is already forming their parties and abandoned the revolution.
"Now is the time to unite until all the revolution’s goals are achieved," Qandil said.
On April 6
April 6 got its name after a call on Facebook for a mass civil strike on this day in 2008 that spiraled into clashes between workers and police in Mahalla. The day has been commemorated since then by protests calling for change and against inheritance of power project.
The movement was praised for its use of modern communication technology tools to revive the national movement and for being an unpoliticized youth movement without a private agenda. April 6 was considered a revolutionary development on Egypt’s political scene.
"After the constitutional amendments in 2007, there was a sentiment that the national movement has been silenced and there was no hope for change but April 6 took the torch and built on previous movements using their new tools," said Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University.
"They were the most politically aware youth movement, they weren’t distracted by media like others and were one of the main initiators of the January 25 Revolution," he added.
Maher considered the Mahalla events a rehearsal for the revolution; since then, he said, they have learned how to organize themselves and make use of modern technology to serve their goals.
"We were an independent movement that worked on spreading its ideas despite all difficulties without using violence," he said.
After the revolution and achieving one of the movement’s main goals, Maher said, there is no time to rest until they finish establishing the foundations of a democratic and civil state by acting as a lobby group.