Egyptian-American participates in first free Egyptian presidential elections
In 2008, when Barack Obama became the first African-American candidate to compete for the Oval Office, as an American, I thought, it can’t get better than this.
For the first time I’m able to vote for an African-American, who was raised in a foreign country, and has Muslim family members.
Only in America, I thought, that such defiance of the status quo can occur. Only in America could voters march to the polling stations and exercise their right to vote for a minority, for reform and positive change.
I was proud to be an American. I was proud to be part of this historic moment in a democratic country.
And I thought, only in American can there be such hope for tomorrow.
Nothing can top this. Nothing.
But I was wrong.
Because what happened today confirms that hope is a constant and essential ingredient for all human beings’ survival. Today, as an Egyptian, I stood in line for more than 2 hours at a polling station in Cairo, Egypt and participated in the first fully free presidential elections in Egypt’s over 5000 year history.
Although I was taking little footsteps in the polling line, it felt like I was sprinting miles towards democracy.
But it took a revolution to bring us to the starting line of the democracy race. And when the shots of oppression were fired on peaceful protesters in the renowned Tahrir Square, Egyptians raised the shield of freedom.
This shield that brought down decades of corruption, oppression and fear that was underpinned by former president Hosny Mubarak and his regime. This shield drove us to the polling stations.
For citizens of democratic governments, having free presidential elections is a constitutional right, nothing to fuss about. But for Egyptians, having the freedom to choose your own president was something they couldn’t even define before this day.
“I didn’t even know what voting really meant,” said 37-year-old Jihan Mohamed, while stood in the female line that snaked around the block.. This was the first time she participated in presidential elections.
“I would hear about it on television during the old regime, but no one I knew ever participated because we always knew who would win. We knew they were rigged when 99 percent of the votes always go to the same person. So why would I take part of a fake election. I had no choice,” Mohamed said.
Egyptians felt previous presidential elections had no validity. But now, things are different.
“Today, I have a choice. Everyone has a choice, because it’s free elections. And I have hope that the new president will fear God and improve our country,” said the mother of three.
For other Egyptians, the excitement of the elections contributed to sleep deprivation.
“I didn’t sleep for almost two days waiting for the elections. Today, I woke up at 4 [a.m.] just waiting for the polling station to open,” said 31-year-old Rania El Sayed, who waited with her 5 year-old daughter.
For El Sayed, and other Egyptians, today not only marked the first day their voices are heard in a civil event, but the first day they discover their love for their country.
“After 30 years, I realized I love Egypt,” said El Sayed.
For other Egyptians, it wasn’t as easy to associate their feelings with this historic moment.
“It’s a new feeling. I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” said 25-year-old banker, Nada Ahmed. “This is actually the first election that we don’t know who the winner is before the results are announced.”
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