Egypt’s Constitution Has No Right to Shed Doubt on My Egyptianess

From January 25 to February 11 I stood shoulder to shoulder with martyrs. I marched hand in hand with people who died for our country. I was not honored with death as they were. But I did honor their deaths. I risked my life along with millions of others day after day and I did not back down until Mubarak backed down. I will not back down until my country sees the light of democracy.

I am Egyptian.

I AM EGYPTIAN.

And I am a very proud Egyptian. I have always been. But I am now more proud than ever. And no one has the right to take that away from me.

It seems, however, that I must now fight for my right to be considered an Egyptian with full rights of citizenship.

Egypt’s constitution is currently under partial review in order to adjust clauses that will allow for fair presidential elections to take place in the country. The whole of the constitution will be reviewed once a fairly elected People’s Assembly is in place. Among other things, the current constitution placed harsh restrictions on eligibility for running for presidency such that it was almost impossible for anyone but Mubarak or someone he or his majority ruling party approved of to run. Current revisions were meant to ease these restrictions to allow for a more open and fair process.

I will only address here the one clause – and its proposed amendment – that affects me personally with millions of others; a clause that will rip away some of my basic fundamental rights as an Egyptian.

The original article 75 of the Egyptian constitution states the following:

“The person to be elected President of the Republic must be an Egyptian born to Egyptian parents and enjoy civil and political rights. His age must not be less than 40 Gregorian years.”

The amendment proposed by a committee of experts appointed by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces states the following:

“The person to be elected President of the Republic must be an Egyptian born to Egyptian parents and enjoy civil and political rights. He or either of his parents must not have held citizenship in any other country and he must not be married to a non-Egyptian. His age must not be less than 40 Gregorian years.”

The whole concept and definition of citizenship comes into question with this article because of the way it is worded.

I was born Egyptian. My father is Egyptian and this gives me automatic citizenship by birth.

My mother, however, is American. And I was born in the USA, where my father was a university professor for many years. This also gave me automatic US citizenship by birth.

In 1997 I renounced my US citizenship as a political statement against US bombings of Iraq.

I currently hold only one nationality. I am Egyptian.

I am Egyptian by birth. My rights as an Egyptian should be nothing less than full citizenship rights, including the right to run for president. I am not a lesser Egyptian because my mother is not Egyptian. I am not a lesser Egyptian because I was not born on Egyptian soil. The concept of an Egyptian with full rights – including the right to run for presidency – and lesser rights – that do not include the right to run for presidency – is deplorable.

I have a fundamental right to be treated equally with other fellow Egyptians. I have a fundamental right to choose my spouse, regardless of age, creed, ethnicity, color, or nationality. No one should limit that fundamental right.

I should not be discriminated against because I have a parent that is not Egyptian – something I did not choose. I am Egyptian and should be treated equal to all Egyptians.

Do not get me wrong. I have no desire to run for presidency. But even if I do not have this desire, it is no one’s right to take that right away from me.

I have heard several arguments to support the article and its amendment:

“They wrote the article this way to ensure that someone like Gamal Mubarak, who is purported to have UK citizenship in addition to his Egyptian citizenship, cannot run for presidency.”

We fought and people died so that this practice of tailoring constitutions and laws to fit or dispel certain people be abolished. How dare anyone dishonor that by tailoring the constitution – if that is indeed the case – so that one or two people cannot run for presidency? Let Gamal Mubarak run for presidency should he wish to do so. And give the people the option to choose.

“If a person’s parent or spouse is not Egyptian, we cannot be sure with which country their loyalties lie.”

Dare you suggest that someone like former Minister of Interior, Habib Al-Adly, who has Egyptian parents and an Egyptian spouse and who was head of a police force that brutally tortured Egyptians for years and that was responsible for the deaths of more than 365 Egyptians during the January 25 Revolution of Egypt..dare you suggest that he is more loyal an Egyptian than me because my mother is not Egyptian??

Should I or anyone else decide to run for president test our loyalties by looking at our professional careers and our personal character. Let people decide in the voting booths whether we are loyal; whether we are worthy. Do not pre-judge me by words written in a constitution.

“I am not comfortable with someone with dual citizenship residing as president of my country.”

Nor am I! Should an Egyptian with a second nationality decide to run for presidency that person MUST renounce the second citizenship. This SHOULD be a clause in the constitution. The Egyptian president should hold only one citizenship at the time of presidency.

“Egyptians raised abroad or those with a non-Egyptian parent or spouse have been influenced by foreign cultures.”

Who hasn’t these days?? We live in a small global village. We learn from cultures all over the world. That is a GOOD thing. And that does not diminish my Egyptianess in any way. It does not affect my loyalty to my country.

I AM EGYPTIAN.

I am not half-Egyptian. I am not a second tier or a second class Egyptian.

I AM EGYPTIAN.

An Egyptian is an Egyptian and all Egyptians should be treated equally.

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23 comments

  1. Nadia, I fully support your stance but would like to take it a step further even.

    If people are not comfortable with someone with dual citizenship residing as president, they should not vote for them. Simple as that.

    Of course, if they do have dual citizenship, then they must announce this, and competing candidates can then be free to use that in their campaigns against him.

    But if the people don’t care, then they don’t care. We don’t need the constitution protecting us from our own opinions.

    In fact, I am of the opinion that anyone should be able to run for president in Egypt, including foreigners (if they can get the appropriate number of signatures/MP approvals).

    It’s up to us Egyptians to decide if, say, a Chinese villager will do a good job running the country. The constitution should have nothing to say about that.

    1. I think this is a valid clause , i think something similar here in the USA as well is being followed. Obama had hard time proving that he was born here…
      I don’t see why not have it that way..
      Now Qaddafi is being accused by not being pure libian…
      That’s valid, even though I am an American Egyptian

      1. The requirements in the US constitution are:
        “The President must be a natural born citizen of the United States, at least 35 years old and a resident of the United States for at least 14 years”

        Which I would say is much less severe than the committee proposal.

      2. Who cares what the US constitution says …? Since when was the US a model for democracy, limited it as it is by a polarized two party system that’s at the mercy of corporate and special interest lobbies? We should strive for better than that.

        Mind you, I don’t want a foreigner or dual citizen as president, nor do I think any other Egyptian does either. I’m just saying we should be able to choose whoever we want for president.

    2. I actually would argue that to run for president or any official govermental position one should renounce his/her dual citazinship – it would be a conflict of interest. There is no real justification to not do that. If one does not want to do that then one should not run for such positions. There are considerable political influences and implications – there should be no ambiguity in national loyalty. Of note I myself have dual citizentionship but would absolutily give up my nonEgyptian citizenship if I were to ever want to persue such high official ranking position in my beautiful birth country of Egypt. Love and peace to all.

      1. And I absolutely agree with you, Manal, and have said so in my post. The point is, the amendment doesn’t allow anyone who EVER had dual citizenship to run for president. And it doesn’t allow people with only one nationality – Egyptian – who have a non-Egyptian parent or spouse. This is the point. A person with a single Egyptian nationality – and no other – is still not allowed to run for president.

  2. Very well written,
    I was thinking the same thing. Both my husband and I are Egyptians born to Egyptian parents. We had our first child here in the States while my husband was getting his PhD. We are both faculty in Egyptian Universities. The suggested revision to article 75 basically means that my son cannot run for presidency in the future nor his children just because he was born in the States while his dad was on a study leave approved by Egyptian university to get his PhD in order to teach in an Egyptian university. As you said, this revision affects negatively many Egyptians and unfairly questions their Egyptian loyalty. Since I am now getting my PhD and I am not in Egypt, I doubt I will be able vote in the referendum dealing with constitution changes. I hope those in Egypt will pay attention to this detail. Thank you very much for posting!

  3. I totally agree with you. Citizenship should not be about where you’re born or who you’re married to, it should be about loving one’s country and working for its welfare.

  4. I was going to say the “loyalty” argument and the fact that if these two countries go into war for example, to which one will that person be loyal. It is not meant that you are less Egyptian.

    But you say they renounce the other citizenship that’s not a bad idea, but that will not be easy.

    Also, if they give up their other citizenship on papers, it doesn’t guarantee their loyalties “inside”. I mean don’t you as an American feel any kind of belonging there, caring equally about the other country?

    But of course, the ballot boxes are after all the judge as you say.

  5. Yosra, my overall loyalty is to humanity! But if, as president of a country I am leading, I need to make a difficult choice, my choice lies with what is best for the country I am leading. And we are not talking about a dictatorship here. Any president is counseled and is governed by laws.

    I give my own example because it is a real example. I renounced my US citizenship some 14 years ago. Does the fact that I was once a US citizen mean that I am less loyal to Egypt than you are? Does the fact that I was a US citizen 14 years ago mean that when I need to make a difficult decision, that I will side on the side of some place other than Egypt? That makes no sense to me.

    I refuse – I absolutely refuse – that my loyalty be questioned by Egypt’s constitution. I’m absolutely fine if it is questioned by voters in the voting booths based on my professional career and personal character. For my loyalty as an Egyptian citizen to be questioned in the Egyptian constitution this sets a precedence that is very dangerous for future laws.

    1. You are so articulate – I totally agree with every word you said in your original letter and also in your replys.

    2. Dear Nadia,

      The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. ANHRI, is launching a
      new periodical .The new publication , WASLA, publishes bloggers’ posts
      and articles on current issues in Egypt and the Arab world. Here is a
      link for the first edition in pdf format:http://wasla.anhri.net/

      Your contribution to WASLA is most welcomed if you would let us quote
      from your blogs after your permission. Your prompt response will be
      much appreciated

      Best Regards,
      WASLA Team
      wasla at anhri dot net

  6. Nadia with all due respect to your loyalty, and I have absolutely no doubt that you are a very loyal Egyptian from following your activities on twitter and blog. IMO, great Egyptians with dual nationality or non-Egyptian wives/husbands can serve the country in many other capacities even as ministers or governors or whatever, but not as president.

  7. My sentiments exactly!!! Doesn’t the constitution stipulate that all Egyptians are equal in the eye of the law and that no Egyptian can be discriminated against?

    I can not believe that “us” vs. “them” mentality is still prevailing!! Shame on them…

  8. Article 40 of the Egyptian constitution states the following: All citizens are equal before the law. They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination between them due to race, ethnic origin, language, religion or creed.

    Article 75 (read above) explicitly contradicts article 40.

  9. I didn’t have a problem with the clause at first, but then I thought about it and decided I’m against it. It’s nobody’s business who one marries or who one’s parents are.

    If people have fears about loyalty or whatever, then the constitution should guarantee that no one person or party holds power. It should guarantee that regardless of this clause, we don’t need another Mubarak.

  10. When you started posting about this issue on Twitter, and your emotions were so strong, I was forced to take my first “break” from Twitter since the protests started – your emotions break my heart. I will never forget the day of the camera – to me, you ARE pure Egyptian.

    I realize that it’s no consolation, but my sister, child of two native-born American citizens and sister to another, could never run for president in the US – she was born on Australian soil while my anthropologist parents were gallavanting around the Pacific.

    My sister is no less American at heart than I am, no less loyal, etc. There are many laws I do not understand – but sometimes they paint with a broad brush when only a delicate fine-point sketch is needed.

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