Cairo (AP) - Inside a small apartment tucked away in a middle class
The instructors draw inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and download books from American scholar Gene Sharp, whose tactics of civil disobedience influenced public uprisings against authoritarian regimes in
Over the past six months, about 15,000 of these volunteers have formed the kernel of a burgeoning youth opposition movement in
ElBaradei's return to his homeland
But they have come up against a hard reality.
So ElBaradei's followers are trying something new: harnessing people power.
"We need an overarching dream to make us feel part of something," said 18-year-old Abdul-Rahman Salah, who was among volunteers receiving training in political organization. "People are starting to change."
Next year's presidential vote is heavy with uncertainty. It is far from clear whether the ailing 82-year-old Mubarak will run again, or push forward his son, Gamal, 46. The powerful intelligence chief -- Mubarak aide Omar Suleiman -- is also cited as another possibility.
ElBaradei has said he won't run unless conditions for the race are made more fair. But he says he hopes that by 2011 his campaign will be an effective force in the country's politics.
Few groups in
Hampering the creation of any popular movement is a pervasive security apparatus that keeps close tabs on dissent, often disperses protests by force and co-opts party leaders.
Also, change is locked out by the political process. Rigging ensures ruling party victories in elections. No party can be created without government permission. Recognized parties can field candidates for president, but independents -- like ElBaradei -- can run only after an approval process that effectively gives the ruling party a veto.
People power has only really been used in
But coordinators say they intend their new campaign, managed from the small office in
So far, they have focused on gathering signatures online for a petition ElBaradei launched four months ago. The aim is to show the extent of public support behind his call for electoral reforms and constitutional amendments to allow for fair elections.
The Muslim Brotherhood is helping in the campaign, though it and ElBaradei's supporters may seem like strange bedfellows.
So far, the petition has collected 800,000 signatures, nearly 700,000 of them secured through the Brotherhood website, a sign of how its network dwarfs that of the nascent group in this country of nearly 80 million.
Critics warn that the alliance with the Brotherhood may drown liberal voices and drive away potential supporters wary of Islamist ideology.
But the campaign organizers appear unfazed.
Coordinator Abdul-Rahman Youssef said keeping close to
"No one faction can organize civil disobedience alone," he said.
Government-sanctioned opposition parties are more suspicious of ElBaradei. They have rejected his call for a boycott of November's elections for the 500-seat parliament, which he says will surely be rigged. Some dismiss a boycott as a "risky" option that would benefit the government.
"ElBaradei is most responsible for confusing the situation," said Rifaat Saeed, the octogenarian head of a left-wing party with just two seats in parliament.
Another 9,000 volunteers are to be trained or have applied to join the campaign of ElBaradei supporters. After operating mainly online, volunteers have started going door-to-door to gather signatures and reach out to people, following the ideas of Sharp.
In his writings, Sharp offers nearly 200 methods for protesters to pressure authoritarian regimes, from adopting symbolic colors to staging mass strikes.
In the meantime, they have successfully avoided heavy arrests by security services.
"So long as we appear weak, the security agencies will leave us alone," said Ahmed Ezz, the lead trainer. "We just want a space to breathe, to be free, and we are looking to create a trend."
Amr el-Shobaky, a political analyst at the
But, he cautions, "no one has an answer to what the next step would be."