Al Jazeera’s documentary on the April 6 Youth Movement (“The Arab Awakening: Seeds of Revolution”) follows the group leaders – among them Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel, Amr Ali and Amal Sharif – throughout Egypt’s January 25 revolution as well as its aftermath. Chain-smoking their way through the revolution, the documentary focused on the “people power” of the April 6 movement and is quick to credit this particular group for remaining “pushers” for democracy (as opposed to becoming a political party). Of course, the leaders themselves credit 30 years of dictatorship and oppression for their successes. Indeed, the first half of the documentary covers the first 18 days of the revolution, during which April 6 leaders organized access routes to Meydan Tahrir, documented violence on the part of police and pro-Mubarak thugs, kept records of those arrested and beaten, and arranged for food, water and medical care to be distributed in Cairo.
The April 6 movement was essentially founded through the Mahalla textile strike on that date in 2008 – one of many actions the group utilized Facebook to organize. Shortly thereafter, Mohamed Adel traveled to Serbia in order to train in non-violent revolutionary tactics with Otpor!, the youth movement considered vital in the overthrow of Slobodan Milošević. April 6 had organized an anti-Police Day rally every year since, but founder Ahmed Maher emphasizes the fact that events in Tunisia had propelled the January 25 revolution to grow as large as it did. April 6 initially used Facebook to bring out demonstrators on their end, but members of the group quickly rallied Egyptians from all walks of life – including the majority who live without internet access – simply by word of mouth and marching through poor neighborhoods all over the country.
The last half of the documentary is perhaps most important to view. Maher had faith, as many Egyptians did, that the army would be on board with what Egyptians wanted – the complete destruction of the regime’s government and immediate release of all political prisoners. His faith in the military actually set him at odds with many other members of April 6. On the other hand, he quickly received invitations to meet with the High Military Council and later, David Cameron. Maher sincerely believed the Egyptian military would not betray the people, even as State Security offices in Alexandria and Cairo were invaded on March 5th and 6th, revealing thousands of documents detailing the arrest and torture of Egyptian citizens (on finding documents listing the S.S. informants within April 6, Mohamed Adel remarks, “this was on Facebook anyway”).
This changed in the wee hours of April 9th, where the day before thousands had gathered in Meydan Tahrir and elsewhere to rally on behalf of labor, for jobs, for Palestinian autonomy and especially to call for the arrest and prosecution of Hosni Mubarak and his family. That night, the military revealed once and for all to the people where they stood – they invaded Tahrir and brutalized the citizens and officers that remained there. A few days later, the military interrogated and arrested Mubarak and his sons (Suzanne Mubarak followed, sort of).
The documentary ends where we might have expected it: a brief discussion of hope and the continuing struggle by Maher, but ultimately an expectation that the September elections are already in peril. April 6, now broken from other organizations in the Coalition of Youth Groups, continues to remain a pressure group and focuses on voter recruitment. Ultimately we watch along with them to see what effect, if any at all, a higher voter turnout at the upcoming elections will have on Egypt’s future. It may end up that Obama’s plan to sic the IMF on Egypt will determine far more about the country’s stability.