Manal El-Tibi (Photo: Ahram)
Nubian human rights activist Manal El-Tibi's 24 September resignation from Egypt's Constituent Assembly (tasked with drafting a new constitution) – and her strongly-worded resignation letter – have unleashed an avalanche of controversy, commentary and speculation. Following her resignation from the assembly, some have called her a genuine heroine who took a difficult stand, in hopes that more assembly members might follow her example to protest what they describe as encroaching Islamist domination of the constitution-drafting process.
Others, however, have harshly criticised El-Tibi, both for her resignation and what they see as her "unfair and improper" resignation letter, while also accusing her of orchestrating a "media stunt" for her own benefit.
Others still take the middle ground, agreeing with many of her sentiments but wishing she had not resigned and continued her reform efforts from within the council.
The following is an English-language translation of her resignation letter, which attempts to maintain the spirit of the original text. The original, Arabic-language resignation letter can be read here: http://gate.ahram.org.eg/News/254797.aspx
Mr. Hossam El-Ghiryani, head of the Constituent Assembly,
I have issued a statement to public opinion before, culminating in the suspension of my membership in the Rights And Freedoms Committee in the general assembly for drafting the constitution, while still retaining my membership in the assembly. The aforementioned statement was both a clarification and a warning of such matters that are being prearranged so that the revolution's constitution would come out in a predetermined and pre-prepared manner, one that does not lead to the fulfilment of the goals of freedom, social justice and human dignity – the goals of the glorious Egyptian revolution. However, I had accepted to become a member of the assembly, despite the advice of many not to participate, for I had preferred to fully partake in the experience, to be a witness to it; an experience that I can now describe – honestly – as a bitter and black one.
I have reached a final conviction that there is no use in continuing to be a member of the Constituent Assembly, given that the final product – despite my struggle to present many suggestions for constitutional clauses that reflect freedom, social justice and human dignity for all citizens without discrimination – would never meet the expectations of the majority of Egyptians. Rather, it became clear that the constitution was being prepared to serve one particular group, entrenching the idea that the religious state might obtain power in such a manner. Eventually, the process would create a constitution that would maintain the same primary foundations of the regime that the revolution had risen up to overthrow, while only changing the personnel; not a radical change in the structure of the regime as an inevitable result of the glorious Egyptian revolution.
The truth is that my primary political position throughout this time had displayed itself in boycotting the parliamentary and presidential elections, within the context of my boycott of the entire current top-down political process. The reason is that – within the context of this process – the state institutions that are being reconstructed would never become institutions of the revolution, but institutions of the counter-revolution. This means that all of the state's institutions that have been, and are now being, constructed will represent a big step backward in the history of Egypt, and that they would be worse than the institutions of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
And experience has proven the correctness of my position. Egypt has obtained a backward parliament as a result of parliamentary elections whose integrity is shrouded in doubt. Even if this parliament was dissolved, its effects remain standing. It [Egypt] directed itself towards choosing between two real nightmares for the presidency: a president for an authoritarian, corrupt state for the military and the intelligence apparatus [Ahmed Shafiq], or a president that would lay the foundations of a religious, authoritarian and corrupt state based on what is called 'Political Islam' (Mohammed Morsi), elections which led to the victory of the latter.
All regrettably, and after the bitter experience in the Constituent Assembly, the drafting of the new constitution was not an exception of this context. We are approaching the drafting of a constitution that is worse than all previous Egyptian constitutions, through a Constituent Assembly based on the military's overwhelming use of power and authority, and the Brotherhood using the parliamentary majority of the Brotherhood and Salafists and Wahhabis. This was all to draft a constitution that would form the solid foundation not just for reproducing the former regime, but to create the state for the counter-revolution, whose direct job would be to neutralise the political, popular and glorious revolution of January 25 2011.
Consequently, the new constitution and system do not carry any sign or fairness, with all of its impoverished segments of society, including my generous family in Al-Nuba, who honoured me by nominating me for assembly membership.
Thus, building upon all that has been said, and in alignment with my conscience as an Egyptian citizen and with my principles as a political activist loyal to our glorious revolution, one who refuses to participate in the construction of institutions of the counter revolution, I hereby submit to your Excellency my resignation from the Constituent Assembly and my withdrawal from it.