June 4, 2014

Ahmed Maher founded the April 6 Youth Movement that advocated democracy in Egypt and an end to the regime of Hosni Mubarak. He is in Egypt’s Tora prison.

John Kerry’s widely quoted statement about Egypt’s Jan. 25, 2011, revolution — that it was sparked by the youth and “ stolen ” by the Muslim Brotherhood — is infuriating. Not because it’s not true but because it ignores the more recent fact that many of the young people who kindled the revolution are now jailed for defending democracy and human rights.

Yes, Mr. Kerry , we all know that the 2011 revolution was set in motion by the youth and stolen by the Brotherhood. And we agree with you that the Brotherhood ruled Egypt ineffectively, with stupidity, stubbornness and greed. No one disagrees with that. Many of those youths who rebelled against the Mubarak government in 2011 also protested the incompetence of the Brotherhood on June 30, 2013. But now they wallow in prisons and are being attacked every day in the Egyptian media.

Egypt is ruled by a military regime that does not tolerate criticism or even advice. It is not merely content to pass a law to ban protests — under which I have been sentenced to spend three years in prison and pay a fine of 50,000 Egyptian pounds. Now the authorities are using live ammunition against youth before they protest — for example, as they assembled for a peaceful demonstration on this year’s anniversary of the 2011 revolution.

No one can voice an opinion anymore, Mr. Kerry. When anyone speaks about the wrong direction the country is taking or the violations of human rights or the oppression that is increasing every day, the consequences are death or imprisonment or, at the very least, the tarnishing of one’s reputation in the media. Yes, there is a new constitution, but no one criticizes any of its articles because the authorities detained its critics before the constitution was passed.

And yes, there were presidential elections last week, but everyone knew the outcome before the vote occurred, Mr. Kerry. And everyone knows that the vote has nothing to do with proceeding along the path of democracy. There is no path of democracy to begin with — it is all a comical farce.

Unfortunately, your statements in November, along with the U.S. decision to resume aid last month, are being interpreted in Egypt as support for this military regime, and they encourage it to further its oppression and tyranny.

Yes, the youth sparked the revolution and the Brotherhood hijacked it, but that is no reason for Egypt’s state security forces to murder both the Brotherhood and the youth. Yes, there are terrorists and extremists who take up arms and cause treacherous explosions, and we must all fight this terrorism.

However, it is unacceptable for the Egyptian authorities to generalize and to make accusations without evidence. Violations of human rights only encourage others to resort to violence and to despair of peaceful and democratic resistance.

The Egyptian authorities must respect freedoms, human rights, freedom of expression, dialogue and inclusion and must not encourage others to resort to extremism and violence. If your Apache helicopters are important in the fight against terrorism, I assure you that individual freedoms, democracy, respect for human rights, dialogue and inclusion are also important in the fight against terrorism.

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