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Shortcomings of the new Constitution committee
The body set up to amend in ten short days Egypt’s constitution fails to reflect society and those who took part in the revolution whose demands, subsequently, could be left unanswered
Nawal El Saadawi , Monday 21 Feb 2011
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I was surprised when I read about the new committee for constitutional amendments headed by Tarek El-Bishry with lawmakers, a representative for Copts and another from the Muslim Brotherhood. I thought that after the glorious popular revolution, which raised the banners of freedom, justice and dignity, that a committee would be formed to rewrite the entire Constitution (and not just to amend it) in order for it to correspond with the goals and demands of the revolution. But, unfortunately, the composition of the committee has nothing whatsoever to do with what millions of Egyptian revolutionaries – youth, men, women and children – had called for.

The committee should have included honourable intellectuals who combine both the qualities of aptitude and integrity from across the political, legal, economic, social, intellectual and cultural spectrum. It should also include representatives from all strata of society, including the youth, women, Copts and Muslims. Amending the Constitution is not the exclusive preserve of men of law, but the entire population, all sectors, and most prominently progressive advanced thinkers who are in step with the Egyptian People’s Revolution which demanded the ouster of the regime – not just the removal of the president and a rearrangement of members of his regime.

I don’t know what the criteria were for choosing the committee’s members; how can it not include the youth after they triggered this revolution and stood their ground and sacrificed their blood in order for it to succeed. There are hundreds of thinkers among their ranks who are qualified in every sector, including the law.

Neither did the committee include one single woman from the intellectuals in political, social and other fields, or even one female law professor, counsel or judge although Egypt has hundreds of them. The Great Revolution was undertaken by men and women, not only men, and based on freedom and justice. How is it, then, that women are blocked from their right to participate in drafting a new civic Constitution which does not discriminate between citizens on the basis of their gender, religion, ethnicity, creed, class or any other criterion.

Women constitute half of society (a much higher percentage than the Muslim Brotherhood or Copts), they participated in the popular revolution side by side with men, their blood was also spilled and they spent 20 cold nights in the rain in Tahrir Square since 25 January, until Mubarak was ousted. They too swept and cleaned up Tahrir Square before they went home. So how is it that they are denied the right to participate in building society and the new regime? Is this the justice the revolution demanded?

History has taught us how popular revolutions are aborted by remnants of the ousted regime, and the first thing to be abandoned is the rights of women. We have learnt our lesson, and as soon as we returned from Tahrir we formed the Popular Committee for Establishing the Egyptian Women’s Union, which was aborted several times under the regime of Mubarak and his wife. This scattered the power of women in Egypt and subjected them to the control of the cabinet and the First Lady.

The success of Egypt’s Popular Revolution of 25 January relied on unity, awareness and organisation. The power of millions of organised and conscientious people overpowered all the weapons of the regime, including a brutal police and a deceptive media maligning the men and women of the revolution by labeling them as traitors and enemy agents. But these weapons of the government were decimated in the face of a united, cognizant, peaceful force of the Egyptian people.

Accordingly, the establishment of the Egyptian Women’s Union is necessary to unite and organise women in order for them to become an enlightened political force capable of imposing their rights and presence on all institutions, from the top to the bottom. It will represent women in a just way in all the new committees, including the one for amending the Constitution, in order to draft a new civic Constitution treating all citizens as equal, without discrimination on the basis of gender, religion or any other criterion.

Today, we demand that qualified and honourable Egyptian women join the committee for constitutional amendments which was formed recently to draft a new Constitution. Why should it only last for ten days? Why the hurry? Amending the Constitution is the most important step at this stage, and it must be done with diligence and the contribution of representatives for all the revolutionaries.





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Kitty Antonik Wakfer
23-02-2011 06:48am
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A Different Path Possible
It appears to me, an acknowledged outsider while extremely interested and concerned, that "shortcomings" are more than simply the plans of "the new committee for constitutional amendments" or that "[a]mending the Constitution is the most important step at this stage". Those who initiated the drive for recent nonviolent protests in Egypt making use of the 198 nonviolent measures authored by Gene Sharp, even if they were unaware of the author's identity, did an admirable thing by ceasing to be afraid and being willing to engage in civil disobedience. However, I urge them and others sincerely desirous of an orderly Egypt with individuals at liberty to voluntarily interact to mutual benefit to consider a route different than the examples of the USA, Europe and most of the rest of the industrialized countries - all with rulers spread over various individuals - executives/legislators/judges - whose edicts/mandates/regulations/directives/laws/etc are carried out by enforcers, those willing
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Jeff Renz
22-02-2011 07:40pm
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Constitutional Committee
I agree with what you have said. The reality, however, is that Egypt, like most countries, sees law as a science, and therefore lawyers as the preferred interpreters. I have seen too few countries enter into the democratic experiment by establishing a citizens' constitutional convention.
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