42. Citizenship; the impossible dream in the police state

Article summary: 

Al-Darbī presents a report on the principles of citizenship in Egypt. She discusses the difficulties, and reports the positive steps taken in this regard. She also reports on the viewpoints of a number of observers and specialists.

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Al-Darbī, under the supervision of Majdī Hilmī, who is an authority on the subject, sheds light on the concept of citizenship, its reality in Egypt, and the challenges.
After defining citizenship, al-Darbī states that the crisis of citizenship in Egypt is represented in the "suppressive tyrannical ruling regime that has turned people’s lives into a living hell."
Al-Darbī argues that al-Wafd political party established the principles of citizenship after the 1919 revolution, with its slogan of "religion is for God and the homeland is for all." However, she elaborates, political tyranny and the discrimination in influential governmental posts and Islamic movements destroyed it. Then the frequent sectarian crises and international pressure has brought it back into the spotlight.
Al-Darbī further highlighted what she described as "the catastrophic results of the absence of citizenship principles," represented by the 2.5 million unemployed Egyptians and all of the negative social and psychological impacts that go hand in hand with unemployment. This has led to more complicated problems like illegal emigration and abject poverty and its manifestation in phenomena like street children and ‘Urfī marriages.
In her report, al-Darbī cited comments from a number of public Egyptian personalities. Dr. Yahyá al-Jamal, head of the Democratic Front Political Party asserted the necessity of correspondence between the theoretical text of the Constitution and reality. He added that in Egypt there is a lack of justice on all the levels, which is the result of the hegemony of the ruling National Democratic Party.
Al-Darbī also reported on Dr. Samīr Marqus’ belief that citizenship will be incomplete without the institution of a unified law for building houses of worship.
During the latest constitutional amendments there have been heated discussions on how citizenship principles can be manifested in Egypt. Many voices asked for an effective participation of Copts in political life. Some suggested specifying a special quota in the Parliament for Copts.
However, like many other people, Sāmih Makram ‘Ubayd, the assistant general secretary of al-Wafd has rejected this suggestion, considering it an insult against Copts and an example of "positive discrimination." ‘Ubayd denounced the interference of men of religion in politics and called for restricting their roles to the religious sphere.
Meanwhile, Michael Munīr, an expatriate Coptic activist who is the head of the Washington-based U.S. Copts Association blamed the Egyptian government for not putting an end to the discrimination against Copts, especially by providing equal opportunities for posts and parliamentary representation and by unifying the rules for building houses of worship.
In the same context, lawyer Muná Dhū al-Faqār stressed the need to fight all kinds of discrimination and injustice and called for a special law to be enacted to prevent discrimination and to establish an organization to control the activation of citizenship principles in society and put the corresponding sanctions and penalties in place for violating the law.
On his part, Sarīf al-Hilālī, the executive manager of the Arab Association for Supporting Civil Society and Human Rights, referred to the existing gap between the laws and reality, alluding to the leading role of NGOs to effectuate the existing laws and observe them. He added that the increasing number of these civil non governmental and human rights organizations has become an effective way of putting pressure on the government to deliver people’s complaints to the media and decision makers.
Al-Hilālī called for changing the legislative frame of NGOs and to reclassify and redefine human rights organizations and NGOs according to their roles in a new law that regulates public work.
In the same context al-Darbī argues that the NGOs in Egypt violate international resolutions because of the restrictions imposed on the freedom of expression.
Hāfiz Abū Sa‘dah, member of the National Council for Human Rights, stressed the need for mechanisms to effectuate the principles of human rights, as stated in the first article of the Egyptian Constitution.
Intellectual and media reports, apart, many practical steps were taken to put the principles of citizenship into action. Al-Darbī referred to the Egyptian declaration for citizenship rights that she considers to be a manifestation of the new democratic state.
The declaration aims to achieve constitutional and political reform, to enforce national unity and the principles of citizenship, to effectuate the law and enforce social equality and to spread social peace and human rights education.

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