An item on my Bucket List was to make the front page of a newspaper. What I didn’t know, a local reporter would want to write about my experiences during Egypt’s constitutional referendum stemming from the country’s 2011 revolution.
The story, as appeared on the Kelowna Daily Courier website:
A referendum on Egypt’s constitution appears headed for an Islamic victory, and Kelowna’s Adam Goodwin is there watching it happen.
Millions cast ballots Saturday to oppose or support a new charter that would see Egypt move toward a religious state and reject secular traditions. Goodwin, an event co-ordinator at UBC’s Okanagan campus, was in the heart of Cairo on the weekend to witness the vote up close.
“Saturday evening, some Egyptians were celebrating,” he wrote in a blog. “Many are subdued and will wait until next Saturday, after the rest of Egypt votes . . . They do not want to get their hopes up as they have been promised things before.”
Goodwin, who’s 23 and grew up in Armstrong, is travelling through Turkey, Egypt and Rome. He wanted to see first-hand how Egyptians choose their future after dictator Hosni Mubarek was ousted from the presidency in 2011.
A young man named Sheriaf told Goodwin he took part in Cairo’s Tahrir Square protests in 2011. He camped for three days there, carried three dead bodies during the revolution and was shot, he said.
Sheriaf feels nothing has changed since last year’s revolution.
“It’s the same (expletive) ministers as before, in the same jobs. How can things change? Just a different president. The same old (expletive),” he said.
For those wanting to keep Egypt’s secular customs, tasting democracy has been bitter. Soon after Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was elected in June, he gave himself far-reaching powers that have divided the country.
His party, the Muslim Brotherhood, pushed for changes that will make Muslim clerics the arbiters for civil rights. Many fear the regime will appoint religious police to segregate women from men and impose Islamic dress codes.
The tension has boiled over. Members of both sides clashed last week as hundreds of thousands filled the square to demand that Morsi cancel the referendum and write a new draft of the charter.
Soon after he arrived in Cairo, Goodwin’s host told him to stay away from the Presidential Palace – the scene of barricades and frequent tear-gas altercations. His host later warned him to avoid Tahrir Square altogether Friday night.
Because Goodwin is “Anglo-Saxon” and doesn’t speak Arabic, “I easily stand out in the square and (am) therefore an easy target for anyone looking for mischief,” he said.
About 120,000 army troops were deployed alongside police Saturday to protect polling stations and state buildings after clashes in the last three weeks left more than 10 people dead and 1,000 wounded. Line-ups at voting stations were orderly but long (three to four-hour waits) and Tahrir Square was calm, Goodwin said.
Still, people are frustrated and passionate. One Egyptian told him the freedom people won after the revolution is again under threat.
“We were told everyone would be equals,” he said. “We didn’t support Morsi when he was elected after the revolution, but we want democracy so we had to accept the result. We were told 100 days and we would hear about all the changes.
“After 100 days we marched back to Tahrir Square. We were told it would be another month before changes are announced. Now this.”
Turnout was low as voters cast ballots in Cairo and Alexandria on Saturday. Millions more will vote in more conservative, rural areas of the country this weekend.
One analyst estimated that of every 100 Egyptians in the two biggest cities, 69 didn’t vote in the referendum, 18 said yes and 13 said no.
Adam is currently traveling Asia, Africa and Europe. Follow him on Twitter (adam13goodwin) – #travels2012. You can connect with Adam by: Twitter (@adam13goodwin); Email (firstname.lastname@example.org); Web (www.adamkgoodwin.com); In-person