There was a high turnout among women in the 2014 constitutional referendum in Egypt, and their “yes” vote constituted the most remarkable phenomenon. Their turnout demonstrates the steadily increasing political importance of women in Arab society and proves that they do not just represent marginal figures or votes without specific orientation who are merely told to fill a vote gap.
This united front reflects [one of] the major shifts in Arab society, which has changed a lot. It owes this change to the Arab women who began to emerge in the violent sea of politics, under widespread, dangerous political conditions. Women have been following politics, offering their opinions and participating in electronic media, since the Arab nation became marred with fear, unknown horizons and street wars. A huge part of this nation has seen the destruction of cities, ruled by the law of the jungle, harshness and mutual spite.
Women in Egypt are largely steering the wheel and contributing to political life with their votes, which have undoubtedly favored the national option. As a result, the Muslim Brothers and their supporters have criticized this phenomenon and unanimously asserted that most advocates of the charlatans of this age are women.
The signs from the referendum in Egypt clearly indicate the widespread politicization of women. Their political activities have recently ascended, after their being among the most absent and least aware segments of society, as many analysts have contended. At a time when men cannot be present to vote, women are taking their places as heads of household. Women are also filling the role of men when the latter act nonchalantly or refrain from voting. This has shown the resistance of women to the propaganda of the Muslim Brothers and to their cultural and intellectual oppression of women in society, a social group they are focusing their efforts on more than any other.
The Brotherhood tried to push a political agenda regarding the constitution, claiming that it is against Sharia law. It also created an atmosphere of terrorism and violence in the streets, thus raising psychological and security obstacles to the process of voting on the referendum. Women’s resolve and patriotism, however, derailed the Brotherhood’s game.
For this reason, Egyptian women's vote was a political message aimed at the current regime and at assuming their place on the political scene. They are capable of asserting their roles as partners in political life and in the future of the nation. Women are not political affiliates of men, as the Brotherhood claims, and they did not make their political choices emotionally or irrationally. It was not Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s call alone that pushed them to respond by standing in long lines to vote, as the media suggested, nor were they sitting and waiting for Sisi’s invitation to go and vote.
With his political savvy, Sisi was well aware of the power of the women’s vote and the impact of women's political views on the course of events in Egypt. He knew that women were strongly represented in the 2012 referendum. They constituted 27% of electoral votes and were among the majority to reject the constitution. Sisi addressed women in a way that befitted their stance, sense of nationalism and keenness regarding their rights and gains and their concern for the future and structure of the nation. He “reassured women” about security being provided for them at polling stations.
Thus, women did not vote with their hearts, as some claim, but with their minds. They were well aware of the possibilities the future might bring and the threats it holds for their families and country should they vote for the alternative. Moreover, what women fear most is the political instability, the rampant violence and its impact on everyday life, if the state were to collapse.
Women said “yes” to the constitution because they want stability in the country. They are the ones most affected by the flagrant violence and terrorism in the streets. This instability is a nightmare for women, as they are always concerned about the safety of their children, families, society and the future of the country.
Stability was their main goal, as they stood in queues to vote for the referendum. They used the weapon of voting in the hopes of establishing a new life for families and society and for stopping the chaos and bloodshed that has marked the fate of neighboring Arab societies.
On referendum day, women of all ages, along with children, went into the streets, raising the banner of civil peace and security. They protested with joy and optimism, aspiring for a future without terror, intimidation and fear of going to hell.
Most important, women wanted to punish the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been in power for a year. During that period, it undermined the rights and gains of women and interfered in their private lives, thus revealing its bigoted view of women. Scores of women flocked to vote in the referendum, which served as their bulwark against the Brotherhood’s attempts to return to power in order to take hold of society and control women’s affairs.
Women defeated the Muslim Brotherhood by voting in favor of the new constitution, which some Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist preachers did not hesitate to call the “Constitution of the adulterous women.”
Women voted against narrow-mindedness, social and intellectual backwardness and attempts to downgrade their role, minds, eligibility and patriotism.
Women triumphed, as they upheld their status and new status, paving the way for a civilized vision beyond the narrow framework imposed by the Muslim Brotherhood during its rule.
Women voted for the state and stability. They voted for themselves.
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