He backed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamad Morsi in his successful bid to become Egypt’s first civilian president in mid-2012. Less than a year later, Ahmad Maher, a co-founder of the April 6 Movement that played a major role in deposing president Hosni Mubarak, was detained. The experience proved eye-opening for the 32-year-old activist.
“There is not much difference between Mubarak and Morsi,” Maher told Gulf News in an interview. ”The rights situation under Morsi is as it was under Mubarak.”
Maher was arrested at Cairo airport earlier this month upon his return from the US on charges of organising illegal protests and insulting the Islamist-backed Interior Minister Mohammad Ebrahim. He was taken to the notorious Al Aqrab Prison outside Cairo, where Mubarak’s police used to jail Islamist opponents.
Maher was, however, released the following day under pressure from the opposition.
“I was detained several times in Mubarak’s days. But this was the first time, I was jailed in the high-security Al Aqrab Prison where I came to know other detainees and learn about the hard conditions of their jailing.”
Since Morsi took office in June last year as Egypt’s first democratically elected president, around 3,000 opponents have been arrested, according to Maher. “Charges continue to be the same: plotting to overthrow the regime and insulting the president. Mubarak is still in power but with a beard,” he says sarcastically, referring to Morsi who wears a beard.
Maher does not show remorse about backing Morsi’s election, though. “There was no other choice. Morsi was vying with Ahmad Shafiq [Mubarak’s last premier] who represented the hateful former regime,” he argues.
“Besides when our movement declared backing for Morsi, we had hopes he would seek to fulfil the objectives of the revolution mainly social justice and human dignity. We did not think he would be so bad. It seems we were dreamy.”
“The Brotherhood’s obstinacy will wreak more ruin in Egypt, which is now suffering in all domains,” says Maher.
The April 6 Movement has stepped up what Maher calls “peaceful struggle” to remove Morsi from power.
“We know that the Brotherhood is well-organised, but this does not mean they cannot be removed. We should remember that Egyptians ousted the Mubarak regime with all its brutality after staying for 30 years in power.”
The April 6 Movement took its name from a strike staged in the Delta industrial town of Al Mahla Al Kubra in 2008, an action seen as a prelude to the revolt that toppled Mubarak in February 2011.
Maher is critical of the opposition too. “The opposition lacks in unity and coordination among themselves. These defects have come to the benefit of the well-organised Brotherhood .”
He disclosed that his group is in contact with other opposition factions to “close their ranks” ahead of mass protests scheduled for June 30, which marks Morsi’s completion of one year in power. The self-styled Tamarod or Rebellion petition campaign, backed by the opposition, is currently collecting signatures to withdraw confidence from the Islamist president on June 30 and hold early presidential elections.
“I am optimistic about what lies ahead. June 30 will be a new wave of the revolution against the Brotherhood’s regime,” says Maher. “The positive response from ordinary people to the Tamarod campaign shows that the Brotherhood will never be able to crush the revolutionary spirit. ”