Egypt's 6 April movement continues fight for justice

Egypt's 6 April movement continues fight for justice
Rights group says it will not be deterred from its goals, seven years after strikes rocked Egypt and laid foundations of dissent seen in 2011 revolution.
3 min read
06 April, 2015
The 6 April movement, which began seven years ago, is still vital [AFP]
An Egyptian rights campaign has said it will continue its fight for justice, seven years to the day since workers' strikes that helped pave the way for 2011's revolution.

The 6 April movement said on Monday that it would not be deterred from its wish to see a "free, just, and advanced" Egypt, despite the setbacks of the post-revolution period.

"We will remain resilient until we achieve victory, and we will not be afraid, nor will we walk away," a statement said. "Sometimes we are right, other times we make mistakes, but our compass will not guide away from what is right."

The 6 April group grew from a campaign for labour rights in the textile factories in al-Mahalla al-Kubra. Workers had organised a strike for 6 April, 2008, to protest about poor wages, poor management and unfair practices.

Preparations to support the strike took place in the office of Hamdeen Sabahi, the current president of the Free Egyptians party. Those attending included politicians, Muslim Brotherhood leaders, members of rights groups and TV personalities.

The decision to hold protests on 6 April was not random. Workers were paid on the fifth day of the month and local elections were being held on 8 April. According to the workers' leader at the company, the strike had a clear message to the regime as a whole.
     "Stay at home. Object to corruption... by not going to work or college or school.
6 April statement

But the plans were not secret. On the day, security forces took position, besieging the factory's doors and arresting a number of strike leaders. The gathering soon turned into clashes between the security forces and the people, a scene Egypt had at that time not witnessed in years.

Security forces fired tear gas and live bullets, and for the first time, Egypt saw the picture of the then-president, Hosni Mubarak, torn under the feet of protesters.

A speech by 6 April called the Egyptian people for a general strike. The movement used the colloquial Egyptian dialect.

"Stay at home. A general strike for all of Egypt. Object to corruption, monopoly and price rises by not going to work or college or school. We want higher wages and better education. We want good treatment at police stations. We want justice and transparency. We want proper housing. We do not want monopoly or corruption. We do not want torture at police stations."

A few days before 6 April 2008, Egypt's Interior Ministry threatened to arrest anyone who incited or took part in a strike.

Grassroots campaign

In his memoirs, The Beginning, 6 April leader Ahmed Maher, currently in prison, said workers' problems had to be politicised in order to build opposition to Mubarak's regime and his policies.

Maher added: "I was not the only one aware of the importance of establishing the movement; the State Security apparatus was also aware of that, which is why its main concern after 6 April 2008 was to close down the Facebook group, which had more than 70,000 members.

Other Facebook and Yahoo groups for the movement were also closed in the period between 6 April and 4 May. No one running them wanted to face arrest.

"It took a lot of effort to convince a friend of mine to secretly co-manage the online group with me, so they would not be able to close it in case I was arrested," said Maher.

Maher was offered an immunity deal to prevent further protests, but the movement refused and called for another strike on 4 May, Mubarak's birthday.

The strike was not successful, but the first spark of the revolution had already started in Mahalla.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.