A shortened version of this story is also visible at The Middle East Online.
11 have died on the first day of voting for Egypt’s latest Constitutional Referendum and 249 “terrorising” individuals have been arrested, according to the Ministry of the Interior. My story on how Australian Egyptians have taken to this important season of transition.
Egyptian expatriates have joined millions of their countrymen in a constitutional referendum from January 8th until the 12th.
The referendum will determine wether the country is to proceed with a new constitution, a year after the January 2013 Muslim Brotherhood backed constitutional referendum.
Ayman Aly Kamel,Egyptian Consul-General for the state of New South Wales, said that the turnout at Sydney consulate elections have been encouraging,
“We have around 4000 Egyptians who are expected to vote, and the turnout has been quite consistent. There is a big interest in the community and we’ve been completely overwhelmed by the numbers”
“These are very important times for Egypt. Even Egyptians who have lived overseas for quite some time are regaining their interest in the country’s political development.”
“We are optimistic. The Egyptian people with their will and there need to change, can accomplish what they’ve been dreaming about…equal rights, democracy, freedom and transparency”
The constitutional referendum will take place amid ongoing political tensions in Egypt, where deposed President Muhammad Mursi was overthrown in an uprising in June last year.
The Egyptian military has also come under fire for its tactics. The military attack on Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, where at least 600 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed, and the imprisonment of secular protestors like Ahmed Maher, have attracted criticism.
Responding to such claims, Mr Kamel explained,
“No Egyptian is being repressed or pushed out. Since the revolution we have a completely different environment in Egypt. Every Egyptian has the right to speak freely, as long as he is not engaging in violence or terrorist acts.”
“There has been an overwhelming call for the separation of Religion and Politics.”
The constitutional referendum will take place in Egypt on January 14th-15th. Deposed President Muhammad Mursi’s trial, where he is being charged for “inciting deadly violence,” is slated to begin in early February.