Ahmed Maher

Ahmed Maher

انقر هنا لقراءة المقابلة باللغة العربية 

This interview was conducted by Ala’ Alrababa’h. Ghazi Jarrar contributed to the questions and translated the interview from Arabic to English. To view in Arabic click here. The interview was also published on peacefare.net

Q: Through speaking to Egyptians in the past days, I noticed that the majority is not only anti-Muslim Brotherhood, but they are also pro-military rule. The question here is, do they not recollect the post-Mubarak military government and the troubles it brought?

A: They do not remember that year. They consider military rule better than Brotherhood rule, even if it entails more oppression. This discourse is common among Egyptians today – accepting the military’s shortcomings. On the contrary, the Army is a little better than the Muslim Brotherhood. We tested the Brotherhood through the ballot box. For Egyptians’ today, the Brotherhood is worse. Egyptians are ready to [accept military rule]. Of course, the current propaganda is huge, and very organized.

Q: The Army’s propaganda?

A: The Army’s propaganda, of course. They control all the media. They control all the newspapers. There are not journalists who write anything that the intelligence service or the Army do not desire. If I tweet right now that I support the Army and el-Sissi you will find 500 papers and 500 channels contacting me for interviews. And if I said afterwards that I am worried about human rights violations, you will find the same papers and channels that contacted me earlier calling off the interviews. This is what is happening in Egypt today. There is a ‘media machine’ that is operating systematically and on a large scale.

Q: how do people believe the media? Back in the Mubarak days the media was the same. And I suspect that people did not entirely believe it. There was a lot of opposition to Mubarak. How come they believe what is said in the media today?

A: There is another point. The Muslim Brotherhood made many mistakes. They were responsible for many mistakes, and this led people not to sympathize with them. Even advocates of human rights…they do not all know how to defend. Their mistakes included monopolizing power. They abused their power a lot. They refused to communicate with anybody. They repeated the same mistakes Mubarak made. Their way of reform was to simply appoint members of the Brotherhood to powerful positions. They violated their alliance with the political blocs that voted for them. They suppressed the opposition. They appointed a prosecutor general. They penetrated authority. They used the same method Mubarak employed in running the state. This made people not want the Brotherhood. Besides, at their protests, there were armed people. Their mistakes during their reign and during their post-Mubarak demonstrations, and their rejections of a solution made people believe anything that is said against them.

Q: Do you think the Army will give up power in favor of a civil authority? Will there be elections?

A: There will be elections. There will be a new elected President. The President might not even be from the military. But the Army’s control over authority will not stop now. We need many years before we see military rule come to a real end.

Q: Do you expect that there will be elections soon?

A: I think there will be elections within one year.

Q: And the Army will continue in power after the elections?

A: Yes. There will be a President, but the Army will retain its powers. And they could take power anytime again, like what happened in Turkey and other countries. This takes time.

Q: Do you expect reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, and their participation in power? Or do you think that the Bortherhood will return to being a populous, secretive, and illegal movement, as they were in the Mubarak era?

A: I hope reconciliation happens. I tried hard, and I try hard, but the two sides reject. The Army rejects. The Brotherhood rejects. Each side puts tough terms. Unfortunately, it will not happen. Not this year, or the few coming years. There will be no reconciliation.

Q: As I said earlier, the majority of the Egyptians I spoke to support the Army. But also, in the year after Mubarak’s downfall there was opposition to the Military rule. Do you think that Egyptians will change their minds about the Army soon? Or do you think that Egyptian will continue to support the Army for a long time?

A: Not soon. It will depend on what we see from the Army’s rule in the next period. I predict that Egyptians will return to opposing the current regime, but not in the next months. Maybe after one year, or more than one year.

Q: You voiced your support to el-Baradei before. What is your position on el-Baradei after he resigned and left the country?

A: Of course, I respect el-Baradei a lot. We consider him a guide. His opinions are mostly correct. Of course, his position and his resignation – there was a big attack on el-Baradei. We stood by him and defended him, because he shared our opinion which is that there should be a political solution before dispersing the protest. It is an objection to the use of force in dispersing the protest. We are the same, with him for sure. We see that the attack on him as unjustified. Same as the attack on us. The same allegations made about el-Baradei have been made about us. Of course, he left the country. For him, it is inappropriate to remain in the country in light of the current situation. We are with him. And we continuously try to contact him.

Q: Youth movements initiated the revolution in Egypt. Youth movements initiated the revolution in Tunisia. But, why do youth movements endorse well-known politicians, like el-Baradei? Why don’t they directly participate in elections?

A: The problem is that before the revolution we were not allowed to create real political parties. Parties were monitored closely. There were not the means for us to be on the streets. This made parties after the revolution frail. Until this day, all parties are weak. There is not one political party that has real roots in the street. We, as April 6th, got together after the Jan 25th Revolution and asked, what will the movement transform into? Do we transform it into a political party? Do we dismantle the movement and join other parties? Or is there an alternative way forward? There were a number of considerations, one of which is an organization that we are in good contact with, the Otpor movement in Serbia that transformed into a political party, entered an election, and failed. They were not prepared for that. Also, the playing field was not fair after the revolution in Serbia. They have since transformed into a research and training base, and succeeded. Their political activity did not succeed.

In addition, in Egypt it was clear that the political situation would not stabilize for a long time. The regime did not fall on February 11th. The regime continued. Hence, our role as a resistance or opposition movement is more beneficial than our role as a political party. This was in 2011 and 2012. Currently, we need to build a strong youth movement and a powerful youth coalition, or a youth platform that participates in traditional politics.

There is a theory that says that traditional party politics has become old school. In fact, those who partipate in political life in Europe are not necessairly parties. We saw the ‘Greens’ in Germany and in Holland. These aren’t political parties. They managed to gain votes in Germany and Holland. Same in Italy – the last elections were won by a movement called ‘five stars.’ They are not made up of politicians. They are artists, political activist, and bloggers. They were able to get many votes even though they are not a political party. That is an acceptable model. The period of resistance against the Army and the Brotherhood was important. In the next period we will continue to pressure, but it is important that we in fact form youth coalitions to enter the elections, even though elections are still unfortunately governed by bad rules. Elections in Egypt are dictated by money and connections. That is potentially an obstacle.

Q: Personally, do you want to participate in future elections?

A: Not in the near future. Maybe in the second next elections, meaning not in 2014 but in 2018.

Q: In a recent interview, you said that the current generation might not see real change, for we are back to square one. Why so pessimistic?

A: Because real change that we speak about is real revolution. It is changing the regime, and changing the rules of the political game. It is changing the mentality, and the culture. This takes many years. In Egypt, the situation is difficult. The Army is an important component of the equation. Unfortunately, it is the same for the foreign powers. Whether we like it or not, they are part of the equation. The situation in Egypt is very complicated. Radical change that we dream of…Our dream of democracy is not easy. It takes many years. It may take a generation before democracy takes place.

Q: You said, “we are back to square one” after the Army came back into power, Mubarak left jail, and the old regime seemed to resurrect. Accordingly, do you regret that you have participated in the June 30th protests?

A: No. That was necessary. The Brotherhood was a bad alternative. Their continuation in power was a bad option. I was hoping that a peaceful resolution would be reached to spare us from Army intervention. I was hoping that they had enough awareness to reconsider their positions, or back off a little. But they rejected backing off, and insisted on stubbornness. I do not regret participating in June 30th, but I feel that the battle is long.…

If I regret June 30th, I will also regret January 25th. If you said, don’t you regret the revolution? Isn’t Mubarak better? I will answer with no. Mubarak is not better. The Brotherhood is not better. The Army is not better. The best is yet to arrive.

Q: Many of the people I have spoken to have said that the situation was better in the Mubarak era. There was security and stability. These things are not there now. With the curfew, and the economic hardship on the state and the people…people remember Mubarak’s days and say the situation used to be better. What do you think?

A: The situation in the Mubarak era was a lot worse than in the Mursi days. Maybe people forget a little, or pretend to forget. There were arrests. There was torture. There was killing. There was corruption. There was theft. Millions and billions were stolen. There was the State Security Department. There was wrongdoing. There was full control over universities, and killing of scientific research. That was there and we cannot forget something like this. But Egyptians tend to favor stability, and tranquility. But with time they will find that there is a real motive for change, and they will move. Better the devil you know than you don’t know. Why would we change Mubarak if we can wait? We don’t know who will come after. Things like this.

But when people felt that there is no hope in reforming Mubarak, that there was a real opportunity for change, and that there is a revolution that could be had, they went down to the streets in millions on January 25th. The same Egyptians who had said, “better the devil you know” and let us not risk change. Everybody took to the streets on January 25th, very happy about the revolution. The same people who said let us give Morsi an opportunity ended up revolting against him at the end. There will be a time when they will move again.