Archive | March 31, 2012

From the Jasmine to the Lotus: Getting the Constitution Right

From the Jasmine to the Lotus:  Getting the Constitution Right


By Hwaa Irfan

Having faith in the wealth of what one has is something that many of us have to awaken to whether it be on a personal or social level. When Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution seemed to pass through its period of unrest to vote in a new government on December 23 2011, a number of the Egyptian youth revolutionaries looked on with envy – they had made it, so it was believed. However, just as protests erupt on the streets of Cairo again amidst the air of “I told you so” as a growing number of people realize that they were too ready to handover governance of their country through a questionable though peaceful electoral process to SCAF and the National Justice and Freedom Party (Muslim Brotherhood). Simply, in the struggle for a people’s democracy the people have been left out of the picture. All the signs were evident throughout, but far too many were far too willing to settle for less.

One of the arguments proffered by the Egyptian middle classes for the polarization in the voting in of the People’s Assembly, was the high level of illiteracy amongst Egyptians. Equated with the idea of being illiterate thus ignorant, nothing could be far from the case when it comes to the natural intelligence of the Egyptian common man, woman and child. In fact, one would even dare to say that the electoral procedure was “designed” to reduce full participation by the diversity of people that represents Egypt. Thus a number of the influential Egyptian middle classes rested on the argument that the Tunisian population is more educated, which in worldly terms they are.

Yet, we find that the Jasmine Revolution and the Lotus Revolution as triggers of the Arab Spring are now on par.

Without a doubt, the Constitution should come first not the president, because it is the basis of any governing body. It is what defines the policies that will arise, and the best suited officials to carry them out. But as Egypt approaches the June presidential elections, when SCAF have been made to commit to handing over governance of the country with the new president, an interesting series of scenarios are on the horizon, as to whether the arguments around who should draw up the constitution remains quite clearly unsettled.

Even though the Tunisian youth had been far more proactive, more engaged with their people, and thus had greater consensus among their people as of 2012, the obstacles are the same when it comes to the Constitution. Ignoring how the U.S. government has managed to invalidate their constitution, now activists, political entities, and human rights groups in Tunisia find themselves battling for the Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly to hear, and act on their demands. After 23 years of suffering under the thumbs of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who suppressed all things Tunisian, and supported all things in the Western interest, the overseers of the revolution continue to demand for human rights to be enshrined in the Constitution, and to avoid vague terms like “must exercise the rights as required by law” – clearly open to abuse.

Echoing the Tunisian concern that the Constitution must represent all for generations to come, conscientious Egyptians must realize that they along with the Tunisians are unique in modern day terms in the fight for a real people’s democracy, and that they pave the way to success or failure on that journey. Their faiths will stand tested and to honor those faiths or just the right to live with respect and dignity means honouring the rights of all. If SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood want to be remembered with that honor and respect, they must play their role in that liberating experience, not suppress it, block it or be overcome by their desire for power, the kind of power that has not only led to the Arab Spring, but the kind of power that has led to the global economic crisis sacrificing the many for the few. To be despised and feared is the only legacy to their memory if power hungry leaders continue as they are continuously looking over their shoulders, and living a life whereby no one can be trusted!

Where is the humanity or compassion when the Egyptian military courts like the British courts investigate and try children like the case of 13-year-old Ahmed Hamdy Abdel Aziz, leaving them without legal and parental access? If a child is involved in a riot (in this case the Port Said football riot) that is only a reflection on the society that has raised him if indeed Ahmed carried out a crime.  If anything, Ahmed could be made to join one of the many helpful, but under-resourced Egyptian NGO programs that work with families, and the money spent on the trial could by directed to them. Once working with a number of these children, the NGO concerned could then present the type of comprehensive report that should be made to affect policy of social issues.

When a 25 year old Egyptian artist creates a painting that depicts that they as a people are being played with, that is a sad indictment on Egyptian governance. That artist is not politically inclined whatsoever, but she has been made so by what she sees from those who deem themselves as her betters. Maybe if it was not for their actions, this young female artist would have continued with the typical self interested life of the stereotypical adolescent, hence the nations “leaders” may have done her a favour, and woke her up to a greater reality. Multiply this by how many, then one has a force to be reckoned with! Maybe that is the function they serve, but they also have the God-given gift of choice.


“Egypt: Children on Trial.”

Trabelsi, H. “Rights Groups Pressure Tunisia Lawmakers”

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