Where is Egypt's April 6 youth movement now?
With several of its senior leaders in detention, the April 6 Movement, which spearheaded a 2011 uprising that forced Egypt’s long-standing president Hosni Mubarak out of power, is struggling to heal internal rifts on its sixth anniversary.
The movement’s popularity has dwindled since it was split into two groups nearly three years ago.
Representatives from the April 6 Youth and April 6 Democratic Front appeared at a press conference in Cairo this week and unveiled a plan to hold a joint anti-government protest, marking the parent movement’s sixth birthday. “The anniversary activities will focus on rejecting the Demonstration Law and demanding the release of political prisoners,” said Amr Ali of the April 6 Youth.
In November last year, the military-backed authorities issued a contentious law that authorises police to approve or ban street public rallies. Critics say the law targets freedom of expression. Authorities say the law is necessary to control violent protests blamed on backers of the former Islamist president Mohammad Morsi, who was ousted by the army in July last year following enormous street protests against his rule. In December, an Egyptian court sentenced the April 6 co-founder Ahmad Maher and two other colleagues — Mohammad Adel and Ahmad Douma — to three years in prison each on charges of holding unauthorised protests and assaulting policemen. The verdict has drawn local and international condemnations and raised concerns about freedom of speech in Egypt.
“Security agencies focus their attention on how to suppress political activists despite the peacefulness of their ways of expression,” said Ali of the April 6 Youth. He added that activists from both factions of the April 6 Movement will stage a demonstration on Sunday without applying for permission from police.
“We don’t seek a confrontation with police. All what we demand is the cancellation of this unfair law that restricts citizens’ right to demonstrate.” There was no immediate comment from police on the protest planned to begin on Sunday evening at the premises of the Press Syndicate in Cairo and march through the centre of the Egyptian capital.
Hamdi Qeshta, a member of the April 6 Democratic Front, said that the state-backed National Human Rights Council agreed to dispatch observers to “verify the peacefulness” of the planned protest.
“Unifying our ranks marks the first step towards cementing ranks among pro-democracy activists, who advocate a civil state in Egypt,” he added, stopping short of saying whether the two breakaway groups will remerge into one movement.