A Youthful Vision.
(Image: Yasmine Fathi 2011)
Many contend that online political activism is nothing more than the click of button, resulting in ‘slacktivism’ and no actual activism or devotion to the cause at all. However, Henry Jenkins argues that‘the digital age has opened a new era of activism that offers the next generation new avenues into broader political participation.’ Today’s youth is no longer inspired by traditional organization and dated politics, such as voting and petitioning. Instead, participatory politics permits prosumers to have their own creative expression, allowing for online mobilization.
Formed around 3 years ago, the April 6 Youth Movement (a non-violent resistance) has demonstrated just how useful online political activism can be. What began as a loosely organized social network forum on Facebook, would eventually lead to the downfall of the repressive Mubarak.
Started by young activists, Ahmed Maher and Mohammed Adel, the group aimed to mobilize support for the protests surrounding industrial workers in El-Mahalla El-Kubra. The group assisted with a national strike, and on April 6, 2008, where and citizen journalists used Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, blogs and other new media tools to report on the strike, alert their networks about police activity, organize legal protection and draw attention to their efforts. Unfortunately met with violent repression by police authority, the protests ended resulting in four deaths and 400 arrests.
The April 6 Youth Movement attempted two more strikes in 2009 and 2010, but was obstructed by the regime. However, in the wake of the Tunisian revolution in 2011, April 6 coordinated with other youth groups to organize ‘Day of Revolt’ on January 25. A leading force of this day was Asmaa Mahfouz’s, a founder of the April 6 movement, viral video in which she urges people to fill Tahrir Square. Once shared on her Facebook page, Mahfouz’s video spread like wildfire, driving Egyptians by the thousands into Tahrir Square for the protests. These powerful protests, initiated by the April 6 Youth Movement, resulted in toppling the regime of the former president, Hosni Mubarak.
From 2008, April 6 mobilized the public through lively political discussions on social-media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and through street protests. For young people in Egypt, Facebook allows users to speak freely. As the first youth movement in Egypt to use social networking sites as a means of communication, April 6 aimed to promote democracy by encouraging public involvement in the political process. As Jenkins suggests, ‘Participatory politics welcomes diverse involvement, enables greater creativity and voice in expressing one’s views,’ something that the citizens in the Middle east had never thought possible, until April 6.
While, we, the youth of today, may not buckle to the traditional ways of activism, we have developed a new era of political activism. We can now rally together in forces once deemed complicated and unachievable; the boundaries of race, age or nationhood can no longer confine us as we fight for what we believe in on all platforms. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter or Reddit our voices can be heard across the world, our opinions can be made known, and our numbers can impact the lives of many.