Monday, April 18, 2011

Could Egypt's revolution be stolen?

As the military continues suppressing protesters, youth groups worry they are being marginalized.

(Al Jazeera) - Only a romantic would expect marriage between revolutionary youth and military government to be a bed of roses, and Egypt's honeymoon is ending rapidly.

"We don't trust the military," says April 6 movement spokesman Mohammed Ekol. "They pretend to listen but are not acting."

The dust has not yet settled after the uprisings which swept president Hosni Mubarak from power, but already the revolution has entered a delicate and critical phase.

There are real fears among the youth movements that military and religious leaders are attempting to exploit the power vacuum their efforts created.

The army's public face, the Supreme Council, continues to hit the right public relations notes. Their move to arrest ex-president Mubarak and his sons has gone down like a treat, while public announcements make great play of claiming they are the people's faithful representatives.

An ominous sign

Away from the cameras it is a different story. A series of disturbing events over the past week suggest it is business as usual for the old regime's enforcers.

On April 10, pro-democracy blogger Maikil Nabil received a three year prison sentence for saying as much. It came from a military trial which convicted him on the Orwellian charge of "disturbing public security".

Nabil had criticised the violent crackdown on protesters two days before. On "Purification Friday" tens of thousands had returned to Tahrir Square to demand the prosecution of Mubarak. The army responded with live ammunition that killed two and injured dozens more.

There is no doubt that the routine of torturing political opponents is continuing. Numerous activists, including minors, have suffered abuse in the Egyptian Museum, which has become a makeshift detention centre.

On April 14, a conference was held in Imbaba protesting against such brutality, but was itself violently broken up by security forces.

Such scandals are damaging for the youth movements who, having become the de facto voice of the revolution, are now compelled to deal with the military's Supreme Council.

The April 6th group, representing over 150,000 supporters, is among those charged with safeguarding the transition to democracy but their founder and leader Ahmed Naher is becoming uneasy.

"The army used to take us seriously," he says. "We would have meetings and there would be a response to our demands. Now communications have been cut off for a month. At times they regard us as kids. All they care about is stability and image, which is why they continue with the military trials. We will pressure them to stop."

Yet Naher feels that at this delicate time the youth groups cannot overplay their hand.

"We wouldn't compromise our values, but we wouldn't call for huge demonstrations while the economy is unstable. We need time to evaluate the situation."