The Big Pharaoh
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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Meeting the Opposition

A friend of mine invited me to a meeting organized by “Youth for Change”, a youth version of the Kifaya movement. I felt that this would be an interesting opportunity to take a closer look at a newly born opposition movement.

“Youth for Change” is composed of members who adhere to a wide spectrum of political ideologies. From what I saw and heard, it appeared that the majority were leftists, Nasserites, liberals, secular democrats, communists, and Arab nationalists. There was a sprinkler of Islamists as well.

The meeting itself was very informal. Anyone got a chance to speak by simply raising his/her hands. A moderator was trying to exert some order on those who were yearning to voice their opinions and comments. The topics discussed ranged from last Thursday’s successful demonstration against unemployment to the decision of whether the group will join next Wednesday’s demonstration by the Muslim Brotherhood’s newly formed coalition.

It was so interesting to watch such a discussion between people who adhere to very different ideologies. The environment of tolerant that was prevailing throughout the meeting was amazing and very encouraging.

When discussing the latest demonstration, a number of speakers stressed upon the fact that cuss words and rough actions against the security forces should not be allowed under any circumstances. A speaker said that the soldiers whom the government sends to suppress the protesters are just poor weak Egyptians who are following orders and that the demonstrators must show them how different they (the demonstrators) are from the soldiers’ superiors. I then heard the story of a security soldier who refused to hit the protesters and ended up getting beaten by his superiors.

The meeting didn’t lack an interlude of sad drama. A fine looking young lady stood up to address the crowd. “Most of you have backs (for protection and aid). When something happens to you, you will find those who can back you up. But I don’t have such a back. I am being harassed and blackmailed and I am very scared. I have been living in fear for the past weeks” she said before breaking up in tears. I just didn’t get it. Why would the security apparatus harass such a young lady who definitely does not belong to some terrorist group or a drug dealing mafia? That’s a question for our dictatorship to answer. I also learned that a number of “Youth for Change” members lost their governmental jobs when their political activities were exposed. How sad.

The group tries very hard to convey the image that they are united with whomever will oppose the Mubarak regime. However, I sensed that some felt they were backstabbed by the Muslim Brotherhood who always took a distance from the overly secular Kifaya and its branches and preferred to act alone. The MB did send a number of their members to the Kifaya demonstrations but the bulk of their previous activities was done alone. I tend to believe that the MB formed this new coalition in order to exert its full control over it and use it in negotiations with the regime and extracting benefits from it. Kifaya would never compromise with the regime, the MB is used to such tactics. What do you expect from people who use religion in order to reach a political goal?

Anyway, my overall reaction after leaving the meeting was positive. I am sure that the momentum will not stop even after the expected Mubarak win next September. All what I am hoping for is that the regime will lift its heavy hand of such people and that the internal and external pressure will continue. We want them ready for the elections in 2011.


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