Egypt: The Day after the Referendum
It will pass… a draft of a constitution that doesn’t represent Egyptians or their dreams. A draft that did not engage them in the dialogue for change, which passed just two before the referendum, without giving Egyptians the opportunity to discuss it. When the revolution started, Egyptians looked forward to a time where they could evaluate their beliefs and values, discuss them, even change them and reflect it all in a document that recorded the whole process. But this never happened.
It will pass… the constitution that neglected most of the Egyptians. I remember looking at my TV screen when the committee drafting the constitution was voting and asked myself, where am I? Where are half of my friends who are of different faiths? Where is my 63 year old mother? How could they pass all these articles in one night with unclear methods of voting? No one in this assembly represented me and when they wrote the draft they did not think of me or of many others. They drafted and voted on articles that represent the vision of the Muslim Brotherhoods, their allies of socially conservative groups and Islamists groups such as the Salafis.
The draft represents a vision that sees women’s perfect place as in the house as a wife and a mother while the state could help her if she becomes a widow or get a divorce. It refers in article (10) to the role of the State and the society in maintaining the authentic character of the Egyptian family, and how they should work on its cohesion, stability and protection and of its traditions and moral values (I hope that a husband beating his wife is not considered part of these values). While Article (68) had guaranteed the rights and equality of women and men in all sectors of society, including political, cultural, economic and social life “and all other fields,” the drafters felt the need to add “without prejudice to the provisions of Islamic Shari’a” which opens the door to many contradictory practices that claim to be based on Shari’a law.
Article (68) reads “The State provides the services of motherhood and childhood for free. The state ensures the women’s health care, social and economic rights and the right of inheritance and reconcile with her duties towards the family and her work in the society. The state provides protection and special attention of household, divorced, and widowed women and other women who are most in need,” so how about me? While I praise the drafters for considering the “personal status” of different women, I wonder why they have to define women as being part of a family or formerly part of a family and now “divorced, widowed.”
I could go on analyzing every article and their contradictions, but what I care about most is the philosophy embedded in the draft. A philosophy that praises conservative social norms for women, children, youth, ethnic and religious minorities; a draft that introduces a political system that would be hard to describe as democratic in which the military keeps its special political and economic gains; and an economic system that adopts many of the guidelines of neo-liberalism. Despite this philosophy the draft will pass and we have to think of “The Day After the Referendum”.
So if Egyptians who will say “No” to the draft and the groups who will boycott are aware that it will pass, what is the reason behind all these confrontations, sit-ins and demonstrations? The simple answer is: the revolution not over. Because we are still in the process of re-evaluating our values as individuals and as a whole society, the answer is that the president should be held accountable for mistakes and should be stopped if tried to turn himself into a “dictator”, and that democracy is not about a constitution, president and a parliament.
The solution is not having a new constitution that limits the powers of the president as claimed, or forgetting that “Morsi” failed to fulfill or even start to think about the aspirations of the Egyptian society. The protests against him are against his failure, his party (which no one can deny is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood groups), and their attempt to play to the ambitious of the Egyptian society while in power. The protests are reminders of the continuing revolution and the rights that were not fulfilled.
The revolution continues because those who are in power failed to defend the rights of many Egyptians which were violated for years under Mubarak’s regime and in the last two years while the Supreme Council of Armed Forces were running the country.
So we are not just looking for a system that solves the problems of the last two years but to go further than this and dig deep into the society and its problems. We are not looking for a dysfunctional democracy as was the case for the last 30 years where “Martial Laws” were effective all the time. We are not looking for a “Morsi” who could easily turn into a dictator supported by a party and a group defending his powers violently. We are not the “opposition” who just wants to halt “democracy.” We don’t want “this” democracy – this is notdemocracy.
I remember a friend from Honduras who has been in the opposition camp against the leaders of the coup d’etat since 2009; she told me, “One day your revolution will have the same slogan as us ‘Ni Olvido…. Ni Perdon’ which means ‘Don’t forget… Do not forgive.’” And it is the case now in Egypt. So I hope those commenters and analysts who call for us to give a chance to this so- called “democracy” stop such calls, because we need to go on.
During the 18 days of the first wave of the revolution, someone wrote on Twitter “US, Europe please keep to your business we have a democracy to build.” I can’t remember who wrote it, whether a she or a he but it was very optimistic that day when we were still fighting Mubarak’s security forces. But it was true, western governments were busy trying to stabilize the region talking about “reforms” and they still do even if the price is the blood of young Egyptian women and men whom no one is held accountable for.
The Guardian editorial on December 8, 2012 which accused the Egyptian opposition of halting the democratic process in Egypt reflected this stand and disregarded all facts and incidents that the Freedom and Justice party, Morsi’s party, supported by Muslim Brotherhood group continues to hijack the scene in Egypt. That editorial and many others focused on the National Salvation Front and neglected that the front is not the only opposition group and that the streets are full with sit-ins and demonstrations for two years now reflecting the same position and demanding the rights of all Egyptians.
Let the day after the referendum come… Some people will think that the situation is under control then, even will call it stable, and maybe celebrations will be held. But we should also remember that Egypt had a constitution, a parliament and a dictator which Egyptians managed to topple. The constitution is not the answer but a real “democracy” where we all as Egyptians have a voice; a voice that reflects our diversity.
Doaa Abdelaal is an Egyptian Feminist specializing in producing knowledge, networking and lobbying for women’s issues. She has worked extensively with women in politics in the MENA region and is also a board member of Women Living Under Muslim Laws Solidarity Network. You can follow her @DoaaAbdelaal.