Ahmed Maher founded the April 6 Youth Movement that advocated freedom and democracy in Egypt and an end to the regime of Hosni Mubarak.
Egyptian media outlets have been circulating the news that the U.S. Congress passed a law that would allow the Obama administration to continue sending military aid to Egypt despite its military coup last summer and the massacres and human rights violations that have followed.
Egyptian state media are proudly interpreting the legislation as U.S. acceptance of the new situation in Egypt, as a welcome return to previous U.S.-Egyptian relations and as U.S. support for all of the new regime’s actions.
Just last month, a U.S. congressional delegation visited Egypt. Speaking to local media about the transparency of the recent constitutional referendum, the lawmakers said that Egypt is on the right track toward democracy and freedom and that they are pressing to continue U.S. military aid to the Egyptian government.
The rest of the world, however, saw the recent referendum as one-sided. Egyptians were allowed only to vote “yes.” Anyone with an opposing view was attacked as a traitor who should be arrested or killed.
I remember well the statements of several American officials last summer regarding a U.S. law that prohibits sending foreign assistance to a country after a military coup, under the pretense that U.S. values prohibit support for dictatorial governments. U.S. officials repeated this point over and over before demonstrations erupted in Cairo on June 30 and before the military intervention on July 3.
But Egypt’s current trajectory is contrary to the United States’ democratic ideals, and official American statements contradict U.S. values. In fact, recent statements suggest that the United States supports oppression, just as it supported the Mubarak regime for 30 years.
Did the U.S. congressional delegation visit any Egyptian prisons to hear the opinions of the thousands who oppose the new constitution? Did visiting Americans hear about the hundreds of youth who were arrested for expressing their opinions peacefully with signs? Did they hear about the local media outlets that accuse everyone who opposes the constitution, or parts of it, of being a traitor who should be arrested? How about when Egyptian media depict the United States as a country that wishes to destroy Egypt, or accuse members of youth movements of being American agents?
Even if the Muslim Brotherhood ruled Egypt in a bad way — and I agree that it did — the military’s arrest of hundreds of youth last month on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising had nothing to do with democracy, freedom or stability.
After the coup, I wrote an op-ed in The Postexpressing my deep concerns about the military’s intervention in the political arena and the dawn of a new era of terror in Egypt. The regime has arrested or tainted the reputation of anyone who criticizes its oppression or killings under the umbrella of “fighting terrorism.” I feared that I would be arrested and charged with terrorism because I voiced my unhappinesswith the regime’s actions and its human rights abuses.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened. I was arrested Nov. 30 and sentenced in December to three years in prison — solitary confinement, along with a fine of 50,000 Egyptian pounds — because I spoke out against a new law banning protest. Two other activists, Mohammed Adel and Ahmed Douma, have been jailed with me. This is blatant revenge by the regime over the revolution that I and other members of the April 6 Youth Movement had the honor of helping to spark in 2011. The military seeks vengeance against any group that had any role in the Jan. 25, 2011, revolution that led to the end of the Mubarak regime.
Perhaps my arrest could be beneficial. It says a lot about the military regime; it has confirmed citizens’ fears of a military dictatorship. Egypt’s military authorities do not know or respect freedom, democracy or human rights. Slowly, the Mubarak regime is coming back to power, and the networks of corruption and oppression are returning. In Egypt today, it is as though there had not been a revolution at all.
As I write from a tightly guarded prison, isolated from the world, I am treated inhumanely. The number of inmates continues to grow, and we have been denied warm clothes, medical treatment and mattresses. The new prisoners are not members of the Muslim Brotherhood but fellow members of revolutionary or liberal movements that oppose military procedures that violate human rights. Also imprisoned are foreign journalists who were doing their jobs — reporting on events in Egypt. Egyptian media are under the control of the military and continue to smear our reputations. Adel, Douma and I have been denied the right to answer those accusations through the media or through legal channels. Nor are we allowed to regularly meet family members or our lawyers, a violation of international standards.
It must be asked: Do American taxpayers support U.S. financing of repression in Egypt? Will the United States stand by as dictatorship is restored? Or will Americans stand with the Egyptian people in their ongoing struggle for freedom and democracy?