In Egypt, April 6 Movement Marks Anniversary
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
We're going to check in now with one of the key groups behind the uprising in Egypt, the April 6 Movement. They're celebrating their third anniversary today and find themselves at a crossroads. Their Revolution succeeded. Hosni Mubarak stepped down. But he's been replaced by an interim military government that's maintained many of the former regime's oppressive policies.
I spoke earlier today with a spokesman for the April 6 Movement, Mohammed Adel, and asked him what he sees as the group's role after the fall of Mubarak.
Mr. MOHAMMED ADEL (Spokesman, April 6th Movement): (Through Translator) The role of the April 6 Movement as peaceful resistance is over. Our role now is to participate in the building of the nation and to exert pressure on government and society, in order to complete the process of democratic reform in Egypt.
BLOCK: Does that peaceful resistance include ongoing protests?
Mr. ADEL: (Through Translator) Yes, this includes protests. It also includes raising awareness, surprise demonstrations, opposing the oppressive system that was in place, and breaking the barrier of fear for all.
BLOCK: Tell me about that barrier of fear you're talking about.
Mr. ADEL: (Through Translator) We've suffered through a long period during which the political system planted fear of everything in us. One way they did this was by making countless random accusations against citizens. This didn't just happen during Mubarak's era; this fear was instilled in us during Sadat and Nasser's rule, as well.
BLOCK: There are, Mr. Adel, a lot of ongoing abuse and torture by the army; closed-door military trials, army thugs brutalizing civilians, especially women. It sounds like that barrier of fear you're talking about is still very well-placed in Egypt now.
Mr. ADEL: (Through Translator) No, quite the opposite. The barrier of fear has been completely broken. As far as the conduct of some of the army officers, these practices came to light because citizens weren't afraid and didn't hide them. We documented numerous accounts of torture. And young people broke that barrier of fear and challenged the army officers, even protesting the next day in Tahrir Square.
BLOCK: You're saying people are now speaking out about these abuses. Is it of concern to you that these abuses, this torture, is still ongoing? The army is still in place and the same abuses are still persisting.
Mr. ADEL: (Through Translator) No, I'm not concerned because citizens who were subjected to torture are starting to win their battles against their wrongdoers, those police officers. The army punished those police officers and these kinds of abuses have quickly declined in the wake of people stepping forward.
BLOCK: Human Rights Watch, Mr. Adel, has documented cases after the revolution - protesters who kept on protesting in Tahrir Square, were swept up by the army and were tortured. Are you contesting those claims?
Mr. ADEL: (Through Translator) No, I'm not denying that these incidents happened. This is true and documented. I've said that some army officers were implicated in these acts. But after some time and with people stepping forward, the army has put an end to these practices.
BLOCK: Mr. Adel, does the April 6 Movement have direct contact with the provisional military government in Egypt?
Mr. ADEL: (Through Translator) There is direct contact. Our problem with the army is that they don't ask for our opinions. They just listen to our demands. We should be participating in the decision-making process in Egypt. When we carried out the revolution, our goal was for us and young people to be part of the decision-making process. There shouldn't be one authority monopolizing that process.
BLOCK: Let's tick through some of the demands of the demonstrators that have not been met. Emergency Law in Egypt has not been lifted; many political prisoners are still in detention; the military regime is still in place with no civilian component, as you've demanded. When you take all that into account, what really has changed in Egypt since the departure, apart from the departure, of Hosni Mubarak?
Mr. ADEL: (Through Translator) Some legal reforms reflecting liberties were realized after the release of some prisoners. As for participating in the decision-making process, that's still pending - to be resolved in the next few days, God willing.
We want there to be a complete civilian counsel running the country. This Friday, when we protest, we'll be demanding for a civilian counsel running the country, and we'll be demanding for the presence of civilian elements alongside the military in the decision-making process.
BLOCK: Do you see, Mr. Adel, a difficulty in transforming a democratic movement with many, many voices from the street, into a viable political force, really coalescing around one powerful voice?
Mr. ADEL: (Through Translator) Democratic transformation will require more than ousting Mubarak. Getting rid of Mubarak was the easy part. We'll need more efforts to achieve a complete transformation. That requires a stronger democratic culture and more awareness, and this will take time.
BLOCK: Mohammed Adel is spokesman for the April 6 Movement in Egypt. After that interview, Human Rights Watch told us it has documented cases of torture in Egypt that occurred as recently as March 9th. The organization has called on the military to end torture and to investigate those responsible. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.