Egypt set for referendum; streets reflect divisions

Updated 13 December 2012
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Egypt set for referendum; streets reflect divisions

CAIRO: A divided Egypt is being called to vote in a referendum tomorrow on a new constitution.
The country’s powerful army, which ruled for 16 months following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak early last year, has tried in vain to bring government and opposition together for talks to calm the crisis.
Fears of violence remain after violent clashes in Cairo last week in which eight people were killed and more than 600 injured.
President Muhammad Mursi has ordered the referendum to be split over two consecutive Saturdays because many judges are refusing to monitor voting.
The opposition National Salvation Front on Wednesday said it was urging its supporters to vote “no” — but also said it could call a last-minute boycott if the referendum was not brought back to just one day of voting, and if judges and independent observers did not monitor every polling station.
According to an Interior Ministry official, 130,000 police officers will be deployed, along with troops, to ensure security during the vote.
Mursi has ordered the army to secure state institutions, giving it powers of arrest until the referendum result is known.
The referendum outcome was uncertain, though many analysts thought it likely to pass, given the Brotherhood’s efficiency in mobilizing Egypt’s vast poorer segment of society.
Saturday will see voters in 10 governorates called to polling stations, including in the two biggest cities of Cairo and Alexandria.
On Dec. 22 it will be the turn of Giza, Port Said, Luxor and 14 other regions.
Egyptians abroad have already started early voting in embassies and consulates, the official MENA news agency reported.


Iran arrests culture ministry official over public dance

Updated 39 min ago
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Iran arrests culture ministry official over public dance

  • Iran arrested a senior official after a video posted online showed young boys and girls dancing in public in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad
  • The video shared on social networks showed young boys and girls dancing in a shopping mall, where a singer was performing for a huge crowd

TEHRAN: Iran on Thursday arrested a senior official after a video posted online showed young boys and girls dancing in public in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad, the judiciary said.
“The head of the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance in Mashhad was arrested for undermining public decency and disrespecting the laws,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online news agency said quoting a deputy prosecutor.
Islamic law in Iran prohibits public dancing.
The video shared on social networks showed young boys and girls dancing in a shopping mall, where a singer was performing for a huge crowd. The event took place on Tuesday.
Mohsen Afshar, a spokesman for the shopping center, told the ISNA news agency that a monthly draw is organized and a car given away to the lucky winner to attract customers.
According to Afshar the singer had the necessary “official permits to perform.”
The performance can attract 10,000-12,000 people, he said, including “some individuals whose behavior is contrary to the norms of the Islamic republic.”
But Heydari told Tasnim news agency that the mall was not authorized to organize such events.
Mashhad is a holy and conservative city where in 2016 concerts were banned by the Friday prayer leader, Ayatollah Ahmad Allamolhoda, who also told music-lovers to “Go somewhere else.”
Thursday’s arrest comes days after Tehran’s reformist mayor, Mohammad Ali Najafi, resigned after claims he was threatened with arrest.
Najafi had attracted criticism from hard-liners last month after attending in March a show at City Hall for Iranian Women’s Day in which schoolgirls performed a traditional dance.