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The Revolutionary Youth Coalition was the most important umbrella group to emerge out of the protest movement of January 25. It continued to be the main reference and contact point for “youth” for several interlocutors in the months that followed Mubarak’s overthrow, holding meetings with state representatives and often representing protestors at national conferences and elsewhere. On July 8, the Coalition announced its dissolution and published the document below — an examination of its actions, mistakes and successes in the last sixteen months. As the writers note, such self-examination is rare in Egyptian politics, particularly as it has descended into a circus in the last few months. It makes for poignant reading, and I’ve added a few notes for clarification.
An Account of the Actions of the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth
From the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth Facebook page, July 8, 2012.
We believe that every experience should either continue or end according to facts on the ground and logical reasoning. And — even though it is not standard operating procedure in Egypt — we believe it is necessary that every group and/or political entity submit a transparent and clear account that outlines what the organization has done over time, be it good or bad.
Under exceptional circumstances, like that of the great Egyptian people’s Revolution, we contend that it is our duty to publish this account for the Egyptian public, for they placed their trust in the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth, as well as for those who criticized the organization. This account is also dedicated to the best of Egypt’s youth – the activists and believers in the goals and values of this revolution and similar revolutionary movements – as well as for that sector of the Egyptian elite who did what they could in service to this nation. This is for the admirable victims of this revolution who paid the greatest price and who continue to do so for the sake of this revolution; and this is also for the souls of the revolutionary martyrs who continue to fall – up to today – in anticipation of the day when this nation will achieve freedom and dignity, the day when each Egyptian will receive his demands for “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice.”
The establishment [of the Coalition] was comprised of groups that coordinated with one another before the Revolution and the Coalition’s formation was announced under the name the Revolutionary Youth Coalition in [Tahrir] Square on February 1 . Its first press conference was held on February 4 with the following organizations at the time of the announcement: the Campaign for Supporting ElBaradei, the April 6 Movement, the Youth Movement for Justice and Freedom, the Youth of the Democratic Front Party, the Muslim Brotherhood Youth, in addition to the following independent individuals: Nasser Abdel Hameed, Sally Toma, and Abdel Rahman Fares. Thereafter, other groups were added, such as the Progressive Youth Union and the Campaign for Supporting Hamdeen Sabahi.
The Military Council: The Coalition of Revolutionary Youth met with a number of members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces twice. The first session took place in the final days of February, during which conversations focused on two papers the Coalition presented. These two documents had been prepared in detail with a group of nationally respected figures. The first document included [a request] for the resignation of the government of Air Marshal Ahmed Shafik, the abolishment of the Emergency Law, and the dissolution of the State Security Investigation Service; the rest of the demands were associated with democratic transformation. A second socio-economic document included a plan for a timetable for implementing special procedures concerning wages and other demands made by Egypt’s laborers, farmers, and the poor.
The second session was a joint session that brought together the Coalition and the Revolutionary Youth Union with Major General Mahmoud Hijazi. This took place in March. The discussions were haphazard. The most important point was the decision to review the two preceding documents of the previous meeting, in addition to: the discussion about breaking up the journalists’ sit-in in front of Maspero [the state television building], doubts that the virginity-test affair “had not yet been confirmed”, and other issues concerning poor and slow performance and management.
The meetings then ended entirely and definitively after the pre-dawn attack on protesters [in Tahrir Square] on April 9, 2011.
The Government of Dr. Essam Sharaf
Contact with Dr. Essam Sharaf’s government was first undertaken after Dr. Sharaf himself called the Coalition to have a meeting, in which he proposed to the Coalition the same two documents previously mentioned. After a lengthy presentation, he both emphatically welcomed [the ideas] and promised to work [with the Coalition] on implementing the contents of the two documents.
The Coalition was presented with the option of choosing a number of its members for work inside the Cabinet of Ministers as advisors to the Prime Minister in order to create a direct line of communication between him and the revolutionary forces. The Coalition rejected this entirely, confirming that it would become a political supporter of this government only if it sincerely desired to achieve the goals of the Revolution. This in turn compelled the Cabinet of Ministers to rely on other young Egyptians for this endeavor.
A number of Coalition Youth participated in the Council of National Justice, under the Cabinet of Ministers, which was responsible for trying to find radical solutions to the issue of sectarianism and discrimination that developed following [the burning of the Two Martyrs] Church in the village of Sol. The Council’s duty was to draft a legal bill on the standard role of religious practice, as well as the creation of a unit for early warning, especially concerning confessional problems and other similar instances.
A number of Coalition youth also participated in the council responsible for the fund for martyrs and injured persons at a time when the idea had not yet been implemented. All of the participating youth members thereafter definitively refrained from attending the two councils after a number of sessions ended without achieving any of the desired or anticipated goals.
After it became clear to all that this government was weak and without any real power, Dr. Essam Sharaf met with some Coalition members before Friday July 8, after a long break at his home. They clearly and candidly demanded from him the resignation [of the government] and that people return to [Tahrir] Square. Dr. Essam Sharaf did not respond. The Coalition then announced in the Square on July 8 that Dr. Essam Sharaf’s government needed to be deposed and that a revolutionary government, endowed with plenary powers, be forcibly established by the will of the Square.
The General Intelligence Services:
The Coalition held one meeting with General Murad Muwafi and a number of members of the Intelligence Agency at the beginning of September. A majority of members attended, but the Justice and Freedom Movement abstained. This is the same period in which the Intelligence Agency held a long series of meetings with a number of civil rights activists, public and political figures, as well as revolutionary movements. A number of respected and well-known public and political figures were also in attendance. On the following day, in order to maintain transparency, the Coalition announced to all media outlets that the meeting was held, as well as the details of everything that had been discussed. This was in accordance with the Coalition’s practice of declaring each of its meetings with the Military Council, as well as with the Government. (We published the draft of the two meetings with them in all newspapers and in press conferences.)
Evaluating the [Coalition’s] Relationship with the Government:
In a number of long conversations about the issue of communication, we faced much criticism representing a broad set of disapproval, ranging from the opinion that continuous and intensive communication was important and that it is wrong to interrupt communication even if there were differences, to the opinion that any and all communication would be a grave mistake. Between these two positions, there were some who believed that nothing is certain in politics and that cooperation must be pursued according to each case and situation.
Relations with the Revolutionary Forces
The Coalition appeared as though it were an umbrella coordinating body representing some of the youth organizations that helped the Egyptians in their grand revolution. On February 1, the establishment of the Coalition was announced, but due to some latent fear of attempts to sabotage the new organization, the Coalition closed down shop. This was an unjustifiable and serious mistake. Attempts at expansion undertaken by the Justice and Freedom Movement and independents actors from the Coalition were unsuccessful, though some small organizations were added to it. We believe that this had soured contact with other respectable revolutionary groups. Afterwards, attempts at rectifying this mistake were undertaken for the sake of the general welfare, through this dispatch of a representative of the Coalition to the Alliance of Movements and Parties.
The People’s Assembly Elections
Differences in opinion arose over elections. Specifically, some from within the Coalition called for boycotting the elections, which resulted in some of the youth abstaining from running the elections and others from participating at all. In general, participation in parliamentary elections was not ideal, insofar as the Coalition at the time was not able to enter the elections as a group. Some of its members preferred to enter the elections on the Egyptian Bloc list, and some others on the Revolution Continues Alliance list; some entered the elections running for independent seats. This was not conducive to creating a situation whereby everyone that might have been nominated for the list of a single electoral alliance could have run in the elections.
Since the beginning, there has been a group from within the Coalition – the Egyptian Current Party – that has supported Dr. Aboul Fotouh and has also greatly helped his campaign at the national level. There is another group that did not decide to support any particular candidate, but it did try to help achieve setting up a presidential team that grouped together all the revolutionary candidates. This was undertaken with the help of a number of public figures. Also, a number of other initiatives cooperated, like the Council of 100. But neither these attempts nor the sessions held with the five [major] candidates – both directly and indirectly – were helpful in achieving the desired goal.
Therefore, the situation has continued in this manner. As a result some of the members have chosen to boycott the elections, whereas some other members have continued to support Dr. Aboul Fotouh. The rest have declared their support for Hamdeen Sabahi. Of course, this came at a later time, after which the idea of a presidential project had failed. As for the second round, the majority of Coalition members have decided to boycott the elections, but members of the Egyptian Current Party and the April 6 Movement have decided to support Dr. Mohamed Mursi.
The Intelligence Services and the Million Man Protests
- The Coalition participated in the popular diplomacy initiative, which was involved in the Nile River Waters case. A number of the Coalition’s members traveled as part of a delegation of public figures to Uganda and Ethiopia.
- The Coalition participated in the call for some of the important Million Man Protests, starting with the Million Man Protest calling for politically purging the government immediately after the Revolution.
- Some members of the Coalition participated in some of the campaigns, like the Kazeboon (Liars) Campaign against SCAF.
A Letter to the Revolutionary Youth
We are aware that we have erred, that we have at times appeared to be monopolizing dialogue in the name of the Revolution. And we are aware that there are many among you who are better than us in both word and deed, and that there are many of you more suited to contributing to this great Revolution. And we are aware that there are many among you who have paid a price far greater than we have paid. But it is fate that has deemed us to be at this place at this time. We are also aware of the fact that you all hold many reservations concerning some of our practices and our meetings. God knows that in our appearance, in our dialogue, and in the meetings we have held, we have only ever worked for the sake of the Revolution and never for anything else.
A Letter to the Egyptian People
We only hope that you will graciously accept what we have done and forgive us for not fulfilling your expectations and wishes. We hope that you will at least acknowledge the pressure and the confusion we have faced, for this experience has not been easy and the complications involved are beyond most people’s imaginations. There is a whole universe of issues that lies beneath the surface. But every moment we see you in the street and see what you achieved in the parliamentary and presidential elections, this has all served to confirm our faith in the idea of the Revolution. Change is the greatest common variable now and it follows that the responsibility falls on all our shoulders to make this change real.
A Letter to Mr. Hamdeen Sabahi, Dr. Aboul Fotouh and Dr. ElBaradei:
We were not able to approach this [next] step until you all announced that there is a radiant energy emanating from within the formation of a broad national front that can guide the opposition in Egypt over the coming period. We believe that this is perhaps the best and most appropriate thing for the period to come. Everyone should be able to participate in this front; it should be truly representative and reflect the national interests, and it should be a way for accomplishing the goals of the Revolution; similarly it should serve as a reference upon which the Egyptian people can depend.
Finally, since a number of months the Coalition has not played a positive role that has pleased its members or the population at large. But only in name has dialogue continued in the media. We consider this to be an error. Similarly, we do not want to preserve the organization superficially only so that the name itself gains some gravity. Respect for the Revolution requires self-evaluation and criticism. In this context, we have decided to dissolve the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, on the condition that its constituent groups continue to practice their natural role practically. In another context, it could be appropriate for each group to join a broad national front when it is established – God willing – at which time it is also natural that some Coalition members would join as well.
Regarding Timing: The decision had been made more than once several months ago to undertake this step, but each time the quick succession of events in Egypt prevented it from happening; it appeared as though the surprises that occurred during the transition period would not end. The idea of announcing to the media the formation of a broad national front after the presidential elections helped.
Regarding the Revolution’s Path: The decision to dissolve the Coalition suggests that the Revolution’s path necessitates different and myriad means, as well as different frameworks, in order to realize its goals in the future. This is especially true if one takes recent developments into consideration.
Regarding Joint Action: The Coalition was composed of organizations that were completely ideologically different, ranging from the far right to the far left. The Coalition was successful many times at reaching a consensus with major participants and in solving disputes democratically. But there were a number of changes that necessitated a new alignment, whereby it could be possible to reach a decision under a different framework. This is due to the fact that the experiment of joint and group action was successful in achieving broad common goals relatively often.