David Wolman writes: During his first two weeks in Cairo’s notorious Tora Prison, Ahmed Maher was able to smuggle out a few letters that he had scribbled on toilet paper. Maher is the soft-spoken 33-year-old civil engineer who co-founded the April 6 Youth Movement and was a crucial behind-the-scenes operator during the 2011 protests that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak three years ago today. Maher has now been in prison for 72 days. His family is having difficulty getting information about his wellbeing, although he has occasionally dictated letters to visitors, including this one, published last week by the Washington Post, and this one, sent to me yesterday.
In one of his earlier messages, Maher wrote of conditions in the jail, joking that his food, at least, would stay well-preserved. “I don’t think there is a refrigerator anywhere colder than this cell.” For the most part, however, his letters have been scathing indictments of Egypt’s military and warned of catastrophic social unrest if the “police state” continues its campaign to dismantle the groups that came together for the 2011 Revolution.
That dismantling has gone largely unnoticed by the West. Outside of Egypt, news about the country suggests a binary struggle. On one side: the Muslim Brotherhood, angered over the ouster of President Mohammad Morsi and pushing back against oppression, real or perceived. On the other side: The military-led government of Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who appears poised to run for president. [Continue reading…]