Referendum result unlikely to end Egypt political crisis

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Updated 23 December 2012
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Referendum result unlikely to end Egypt political crisis

CAIRO: Egyptians voted yesterday in the second and final phase of a referendum on a constitution that has polarized the nation, with little indication that the result of the vote will end the political crisis in which the country is mired.
For some supporters, a ‘yes’ vote was a chance to restore some normalcy after nearly two years of tumultuous transitional politics following Egypt’s 2011 revolution, or to make society and laws more Islamic. Opponents saw their ‘no’ vote as a way to preserve the country’s secular traditions and prevent President Muhammad Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood group from getting a lock on power.
“I came early to make sure my ‘no’ is among the first of millions today,” oil company manager Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz said as he waited in line outside a polling station in the Dokki district of Giza, Cairo’s twin city on the west bank of the Nile. “I am here to say ‘no’ to Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.
Another Giza voter, accountant and mother of three Sahar Mohamed Zakaria, had a different take on yesterday’s vote. “I’m voting ‘yes’ for stability,” she announced.
Yesterday’s vote took place in 17 of Egypt’s 27 provinces with about 25 million eligible voters. The first phase on Dec. 15 produced a “yes” majority of about 56 percent with a turnout of some 32 percent, according to preliminary results. Preliminary results for the second round are expected early today.
As was the case in last week’s vote, opposition and rights activists reported numerous irregularities: Polling stations opening later than scheduled, conservatives outside stations trying to influence voters to say “yes,” and independent monitors denied access.
In Fayoum, the capital of an oasis province of the same name where Islamic groups have traditionally had strong support, a member of the local Christian community said she also supported the charter — a break with most Christians nationwide who oppose the draft.
Hanaa Zaki said she was also voting “yes” for stability and an end to the country’s deepening economic problems. Speaking as she waited in line along with bearded Muslim men and Muslim women wearing head scarves, Zaki said: “I have a son who didn’t get paid for the past six months. We have been in this crisis for so long and we are fed up.”
In the village of Sanaro, also in Fayoum province some 100 km southwest of Cairo, farmer Azouz Ayesh sat with his neighbors as their cattle grazed in a nearby field. “I don’t trust the Brotherhood anymore and I don’t trust the opposition either. We are forgotten, the most miserable and the first to suffer. If I say ‘yes’ there will be stability and if I say ‘no’ there will still be no stability,” he said.
“But I will vote against this constitution,” he added.
In the neighboring village of Sheikh Fadl, a car fitted with loudspeakers toured the area with a man shouting, “Yes, yes to the constitution!” In the city of Fayoum, a man could be seen painting over posters urging people to vote “no.”
In Giza’s upscale Mohandiseen neighborhood, a group of 12 women speaking to one another in a mix of French, Arabic and English said they all intended to vote “no.”
“My friends are Muslim and are voting ‘no.’ It’s not about Christian versus Muslim, but it is Muslim Brotherhood versus everyone else,” said one of the 12, Christian physician Shahira Sadeq. “Voting ‘yes’ does not mean stability.”
Kamla El-Tantawi, 65, voted with her daughter and granddaughter. “I voted ‘no’ against what I’m seeing,” she said, gesturing to a woman standing close by wearing the niqab. “I lose sleep thinking about my grandchildren and their future. They never saw the beautiful Egypt we did.”
“Mursi, God willing, will be better than those who came before him,” said Zeinab Khalil, a mother of three who wears the niqab, said. “A ‘yes’ vote moves the country forward. We want things to calm down, more jobs and better education,” she said, while waiting for her turn to vote in Giza’s poor Imbaba district, a one-time stronghold of radicals.
In part, Egypt’s split has been over who will shape the country’s path nearly two years after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.
An opposition made up of liberals, leftists, secular Egyptians and a swath of the public angered over Mursi’s 5-month-old rule fear that conservatives are creating a new Mubarak-style autocracy.
If the constitution is adopted, Mursi will call for the election of Parliament’s law-making lower chamber to be held within two months while giving the mostly toothless upper chamber legislative powers until the lower house is seated.
The upper chamber, known as the Shoura Council, was elected by less than 10 percent of the country’s 50 million registered voters. It is dominated by conservatives.
Mursi was already gearing up for the next steps after the constitution’s passage, making a last-minute appointment of 90 new members to the Shoura Council, a third of its total membership. Current rules allow him to do so, but if he waited until the charter was passed he could only appoint 10.


UAE to rebuild Iraq’s iconic Mosul mosque destroyed in Daesh fight

Updated 23 April 2018
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UAE to rebuild Iraq’s iconic Mosul mosque destroyed in Daesh fight

  • UAE donates over $50mn to reconstruct Mosul’s Great Mosque of Al-Nuri
  • The five-year project aims to give hope to Iraqi youths

BAGHDAD: The United Arab Emirates and Iraq on Monday launched a joint effort to reconstruct Mosul’s Great Mosque of Al-Nuri and its iconic leaning minaret, ravaged last year during battles to retake the city from militants.
During the ceremony at Baghdad’s National Museum, UAE Culture Minister Noura Al-Kaabi said her country would put forward $50.4 million (41.2 million euros) for the task.
“The five-year project is not just about rebuilding the mosque, the minaret and the infrastructure, but also about giving hope to young Iraqis,” she said.
“The millenia-old civilization must be preserved.”
The deal was signed by Kaabi and her Iraqi counterpart, Faryad Rawanduzi, in the presence of UNESCO’s Iraq representative Louise Haxthausen.
“This is an ambitious, highly symbolic project for the resurrection of Mosul and Iraq,” said Haxthausen.
“The work has already begun, the site is now protected... we must first clear the site, remove the rubble (and) document, before we can begin reconstructing the mosque and its minaret.”
The famed 12th century mosque and its leaning minaret — dubbed “the hunchback,” or Al-Habda, by locals — was destroyed in June 2017.
The Iraqi army accused Daesh militants of destroying it with explosives as Iraqi forces steadily retook ground in the embattled city.
It was in this mosque in 2014 that Daesh’s self-proclaimed “caliph,” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, made his only public appearance as leader. His whereabouts are still unknown.
Kaabi, the Emirati minister, called on the international community “to unite to protect universal heritage sites, especially those in our Arab region” in theaters of conflict.
The Al-Nuri mosque is named after Nureddine Al-Zinki, who once ruled over Aleppo and Mosul and ordered the construction of the mosque in 1172.
Al-Habda, which maintained the same structure for nine centuries, was one of the only remnants of the original construction.
Decorated with geometric brick designs, the minaret was long a symbol of the city.
It was printed on 10,000 Iraqi dinar banknotes before it became a symbol of Daesh rule, when the militants planted their black flag at the top of its 45-meter spire.
“This is a historic partnership, the largest and unprecedented cooperation to rebuild cultural heritage in Iraq ever,” UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.
The first year of reconstruction will focus on documenting and clearing the site, UNESCO said.
The following four years will focus on the restoration and “faithful reconstruction” of the mosque, its minaret as well as the city’s historic gardens and open spaces.