– Nahdet Misr (laconic): A strike without strikers.
The opposition-independent press
– Al-Badil (embarrassed): Weak participation in strike.
– Al-Dostour (oblivious): 6 April: small protests
The real big story of the day, though, are allegations by Masri al-Youm editor Magdi Gallad that Ayman Nour’s wife and stalwart supporter, Gamila Ismail (well-known in Egypt as a former television presenter and later an advocate for her husband) that Gamila sent him a SMS saying she was divorcing Ayman. Ayman Nour then reportedly demanded that Gallad withdraw the edition of the paper where the information was published (with promises of a follow-up), which Gallad refused while lambasting Nour for attacking freedom of the press on public figures when Nour himself wants more transparency on public officials. It’s not clear whether the news regarding the divorce has been confirmed yet, and Gamila has reportedly disappeared.
The short story: what had been talked about nonstop for the past month as a “day of anger” with national outbreaks of protests all over the place completely fizzled out with a pathetic whimper. About 40 people were arrested, mostly in Kafr al-Sheikh, and security presence was slightly more massive than usual. Clearly Gaza is a vastly more important issue than this ill-defined “day of anger”, and the very real, very serious anti-Mubarak movement in Egypt should dissociate itself from the “Shabab 6 April” if it wants to get anywhere. If they keep doing this, I predict a surge in the number of new applicants to join the NDP. Egypt’s activists and opposition politicians are discrediting themselves if they make a big deal about a day of protests that most don’t even participate in – and no, joining a Facebook group does not count.
The same with more curse words at Sandmonkey. Hossam will have more later but has already posted along the same lines. Those two agreeing on anything political is a small miracle, and it happened today.
A quick round-up of info about Egypt’s April 6 strike:
– You can follow updates on Twitter by using the #6April tag
– A couple of days ago the Karama party (leftist-Nasserist, unrecognized) held a conference in which it announced the latest opposition coalition initiative, the “Coalition of Egyptians for Change”. It includes some of the usual figures from the Muslim Brothers (M. Abul Quddous) and a bunch of intellectuals like Sonallah Ibrahim and Alaa al-Aswaani. Here’s a MET story on it that might exaggerate its import – remember it’s not the first time such a coalition is formed, it should not have to be re-formed.
– The socialist Tagammu party is joining the strike, and Ayman Nour (I’m not sure you can say there remains much of a Ghad party, even if he is rebuilding) has backed it, as has the fledging Democratic Front. The liberal Wafd is against the strike, although some of the writers in its paper back it. Presumably the Nasserists back it.
– There have been a number of arrests of students and activists ahead of today’s strike, most notably in Kafr al-Sheikh and Cairo. A Muslim Brother blogger, Abdel Rahman Fares has been arrested in Fayoum. Massive security presence expected in Cairo and elsewhere. Watch this al-Jazeera English report for background:
– Protests are being planned at various universities around the country, notably Cairo U. Elsewhere likely to be used in Cairo: the State Council, the Journalists’ Syndicate, the General Federation of Trade Unions, and more.
– The Doctor’s Syndicate will strike on April 9 asking for minimum wage, but there’s some overlap with today. A protest is planned today in front of the Doctors’ Syndicate on Qasr al-Aini St. The Pharmacists’ Syndicate, the Bar Association and the Engineers’ movement have announced they will not participate. Presumably the Judges’ Club is not participating in light of its new pro-regime leadership, although its Alexandria branch still could.
– Hossam Tammam on the Brothers’ participation or non-participation (at this point it remains unclear what they’ll do, even if they’ve announced support for the strike):
In a replay of events last year the MB has declined to take part in the 6 April strike, although it says that it supports strikes as a form of political action guaranteed by the law and the constitution. Justifying its refusal to participate the MB said that as the country’s largest opposition group it should have been consulted. This is more or less what the MB said last year. The excuse is starting to wear thin.
The MB is not known for its ability to maintain alliances outside the circle of Islamic activists or to perform as part of a broad political front. This is a result of the indoctrination that goes on in a closed organisation run through a strict hierarchy and which demands blind obedience to its leaders.
Another reason that prevents the MB from cooperating with other groups is the self-importance it has acquired since it started outperforming other opposition groups in elections. The MB has developed a habit of lecturing others about the great sacrifices it has made over the years.
Even if this were true, harping can only alienate other parties, if not the public as a whole. The fact is the MB’s long history of suffering sometimes makes it act in an isolationist manner, as if it were a closely-knit clan, not a group seeking allies on the local political scene.
– Sandmonkey rants against the whole 6 April phenomenon.
– So does Hossam for very different reasons, namely that it’s not a general strike if large labor unions are not participating. But it will be “a day of protests, a day of rage.” He has some notes on MB youth and rifts on MB policy on this one.
“CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt’s opposition Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday called on citizens to join a national strike protesting the policies of President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled the country for nearly three decades. The Islamist group ‘calls on the people of Egypt on April 6 to express their anger and objection to the policies of the regime which has squandered the country’s riches, neglected its national security and removed Egypt from its role as leader and pioneer (of the region),’ a statement said. Citizens were called on to strike ‘using all peaceful channels and abiding by constitutional and legal restrictions while safeguarding public and private property from damage during these peaceful activities.’
Does this mark a departure from the ambivalence about the 6 April national strike we had seen in recent weeks? Does it make the 6 April protest likely to be more successful? By what standards do we measure that success? Difficult questions all, but what this indicates to me is that the Brothers’ leadership is taking to heart the writings of fellow traveler and Islamist thinker Tareq al-Bishri on civil disobedience.
I am reminded of a lecture I attended a few days ago by the talented Brothers-watcher Tawfiq Aclimandos, a historian who has unearthed many interesting aspects of the relationship between the Free Officers and the Brothers in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and followed their policies in recent years. Like another Egyptian expert on Islamism, Dia Rashwan, Aclimandos believes current General Guide Mahdi Akef is among the most important leaders the MB have had since founder Hassan al-Banna, taking the movement in a new direction. (Rashwan places only former Guide Omar Telmissany, who rebuilt the MB in the 1970s, ahead of Akef, Aclimandos believes Akef may be even more important.) Their participation in the strike, after the back-and-forth of the last year or two, will be a test of how influential the Brothers really are.