Egyptian Youth Demands Change

Around a hundred young people from the Egyptian "Kifaya" movement, which fights for the democratisation of Egypt, have founded a youth movement. Nelly Youssef reports on the aims of the "Kifaya" youth

The "Kifaya" movement, named after the slogan "Kifaya – enough is enough," has recently announced that it has founded a youth – movement. It will work under the umbrella of "Kifaya" to promote the aims of the movement and support its activities in its struggle for freedom and democracy.

photo: AP
The Kifaya youth movement is among those campaigning in favour of free presidential elections and the lifting of the state of emergency and against corruption

​​Khaled Abd al-Hamid is a member of "Youth for Change," otherwise known as "Shabab Kifaya" – "Kifaya" youth. He and others campaigned within the planning committee of the main organisation to set up "Shabab Kifaya." Other sub-organisations within the "Movement for Change" had already been founded, such as "Workers for Change," "Farmers for Change," and "Lawyers for Change."

The "Kifaya" youth movement plans weekly discussion groups, cultural events and poetry readings in the evenings, and exhibitions in which the aims of the movement will be presented by artistic means.

Slogans and posters are being developed for distribution throughout the country, to get more young people to take part in the demonstrations. The young people even want to advertise their demonstrations and other events in public transport vehicles.

They have also developed new forms of demonstration. Under the slogan "toot-toot – we've had enough," members of the "Kifaya" youth have gathered in their cars on streets and squares in Egyptian cities, honking their horns and shouting "We've had enough!" Then they quickly disappear before the traffic collapses and the security forces turn up.

Egyptian young people are too passive

Khaled Abd al-Hamid believes that the majority of young Egyptians support an extension of President Mubarak's period of office, on the principle of "At least you know what you're up against." Young people, he says, are hard to mobilise and are disinclined to get involved in social activism.

So his organisation "Youth for Change" tries to reach young Egyptians in the universities and places of work, to force them out of their lethargy and to awaken their political consciousness.

The youth organisation, like the "Kifaya" movement itself, demands that the presidency of Hosni Mubarak should not be extended for another term, and that power should not be handed over to Mubarak's son.

In addition it wants to see the state of emergency lifted and an effective fight against corruption. It is not campaigning for a specific candidate as an alternative to the current president; it just wants to see a change in the status quo.

The "Kifaya" youth have in addition a platform which is directed specifically at the interests of young people. They demand independence for the universities and the rejection of Decree No. 79, which allows the security forces to stop any student activity.

In addition, they are calling for the free and fair election of university presidents and faculty heads, instead of the current appointment system.

Contact with the people

Sarah is studying literature at the University of Cairo and is a member of "Youth for Change." She would like some of the organisation's members to be less doggedly ideological. She sometimes finds the debates in the "Kifaya" youth discussion groups much too heated.

She would prefer activities like street surveys in which members of the "Kifaya" youth would find out what is important for citizens and especially for young people.

She points out that her organisation is different from all the other political organisations in this respect: its area of activity is the street, the direct contact to citizens, and not, as is the case for most of the other political organisations, the Egyptian law courts.

"Youth for Change" is looking for contact with like-minded people who have set up similar youth organisations in other countries. They believe that the situation in which the Egyptian people find themselves is not that different from that of other Arab societies: there is corruption and despotism almost everywhere

Nelly Youssef

© 2005

Translation from German: Michael Lawton

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