On March 19, a referendum on recent constitutional amendments as devised by a committee of judges and lawyers will take place. In all optimism, this may be the first time Egyptians experience democracy. For this reason, I find it unnecessary to cancel or postpone the referendum as it will give Egyptians an opportunity to feel involved in the affairs of their country. It will instigate the sense of belonging that has been wiped out over the years. This is what Egypt needs rights now – democratic activity. Whether you support or oppose amendments, your points are valid and must be respected by others.
I, however, would vote no (if I were to vote).
This immediately brings me to my point. The approximately 7.5 million Egyptians living abroad, nearly 60,000 of whom reside in Canada, are excluded from voting for or against the referendum since there are no voting stations set up at Egyptian embassies or consulates, thereby depriving them from their right to enjoy a democratic Egypt. Also, the amendments de-qualify Egyptians with dual nationalities, or ones who are married to Egyptians with dual nationality, or ones whose parents have acquired a nationality other than the Egyptian from holding the office of President, a civil service position.
The concern about Egyptians with dual nationality is understandable and may be valid. However, the response to this concern must not simply be exclusion. Excluding the nearly 7.5 million Egyptians hinders the sense of belonging that a new democratic Egypt desperately needs. Excluding them is a direct way to doubt their loyalty to their country. In fact, if their loyalty is questioned, then the fact that they hold the Egyptian citizenship should be questioned as well, which does not coincide with principles of freedom, democracy and social justice, the key ideals that the January 25 Revolution stood for.
Egyptians abroad are in no way less loyal or less in love with Egypt than any other Egyptian. There is no rule to that. What about the corrupt Egyptians we all know who have lived their lives with behaviors and activities that have only harmed the country disastrously? How can Egyptians abroad be treated as second class citizens, while corrupt Egyptians are still freely roaming the streets of Egypt?
Priorities need to be reorganized and made clear. A constitution must protect the rights of all its constituents, regardless of their present location, religion, race, ancestry, etc.
This is one reason why I will vote no to the proposed amendments.
It has been 21 days since the historical day when the Egyptian people overthrew their now former corrupt “democratic” dictator – February 11, 2011. It took a swift 18 days, from January 25, for this revolution to finally start having concrete outcomes. The ouster of Mubarak. The drafting of constitutional amendments that cater the people’s demands (pending referendum result). The Resignation of former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik and the appointment of revolutionary academic former Transport Minister Essam Sharaf. And there have been indications that more is yet to be achieved.
All that aside, there have been significant changes within Egyptian society, most obvious is the shift from nearly absolute political apathy to a newfound interest in politics. For many many years, as long as I can remember, the one most notable characteristic that I believe has described a vast majority of the Egyptian people is political apathy. If not a vast majority, then quite a considerable and dominant number.
From a class perspective, lower classes were politically apathetic possibly because they were more concerned with day-to-day issues or rather, daily survival. People belonging to the tiny middle class remaining in Egypt had their worldly concerns, just like the upper class. School children were censored from politics in one way or another. Students had their school and university social lives and studies to worry about. And so on. Many Egyptians always had an excuse or a reason to refrain from being politically informed and/ or from being politically involved. More often that not, political involvement was discouraged. And the reasons for that are the very reasons why the Egyptian people have called for dismantling Egypt’s 30+ year old corrupt regime.
A decrease in political apathy is definitely a positive outcome of Egypt’s revolution, but not without challenges. In fact, it has proven to be quite problematic. Egypt now hosts millions of citizens who are forced to be engaged in politics, at least mentally – whether they really like it or not. Many of them have attempted to be involved in political discussions and arguments, and many have often failed miserably at either formulating a logical argument or expressing it. Friends have been lost, families split, etc as a consequence. To me, it is the system to blame, the system that had worked to keep its constituents far from any light that could lead them forward.
This sudden revolutionary shift from political apathy to its opposite is certainly a challenge that must be brought into light and must soon be overcome. In the most basic sense, being well-informed (and well-exposed) is the key. And this is a request to all Egyptians:
If you are passionate about something. If you (and/ or others) consider yourself an expert in a field, do tell us. Politics or not. Do tell!
(written on March 5, 2011)