“Na’am willa la?” (Yes or no?) A child shouted at a group of us covering today’s referendum in the Imbaba neighborhood of Cairo. I shouted back, “I dont know, what about you?” He laughed at the Arabic-speaking foreigner with a strange Egyptian accent and ran off with his friends.
Today, more than a month after Hosni Mubarak was forced from office, Egyptians from across the country cast their vote — yes or no — in a referendum on proposed constitutional amendments. The vote has been actively debated from TV stations to street corners. Traveling around the city the past few nights I’ve seen groups of people at Tahrir Square and other public areas standing in small groups debating the referendum. Anyone can join the debate, or, if you’re just passing by and want to hear some differing views, you can easily listen in. Democracy at work, and for the time being everyone is taking part. (Read the Guardian’s report on the referendum for more.)
Of all the various polling stations around town, it was important for me to go to the Imbaba neighborhood today. It’s in Imbaba where I witnessed intense street battles between the people and the police on 28 January. People fought for hours against police armed with tear-gas and other weaponry until the demonstrators forced the police to retreat before marching on to Tahrir Square where numerous other marches from around the city converged. Imbaba is considered one of Cairo’s poorest neighborhoods, and it’s a telling sign of just how inclusive this revolutionary process is to see working class Egyptians from all backgrounds taking part.
28 January 2011:
19 March 2011: