Pressure to vote ‘yes’ in Basateen

Residents of the area Basateen in Cairo, next to the area Maadi, gathered at schools such as the Basateen Middle School and the Girls School of Maadi in Basateen to vote in the constitutional referendum. Although most seemed they would “yes,” some voters voiced their intention of voting “no.”

Gathering in groups of four and five, women huddled together wiping their fuchsia-dyed fingers while they discussed what had occurred inside. Debates about the referendum broke out, even though they had finished casting their votes.

Voters seemed much more taken by their new new-found ability to speak up than their different viewpoints. One thing was certain — the party of “yes” had sent its representatives to persuade voters at the last minute.

“We all voted no,” exclaimed Mona, 32, with her group of friends.

“All of us, except her!” Mona continued, pointing to a girl who sheepishly turned away. “And ask her why!”

“I voted yes because a woman in the line told me to,” Doaa explained.

While the incident may have been isolated, posters plastered to school walls from the outside seemed to prove otherwise.

At the Basateen Middle School, the pressure was less subtle. An exit poll discussion with women voters was broken up by a group of five women dressed in niqab. “You cannot talk about this,” proclaimed one of the women as she separated the voters.

“We don’t listen to these people,” another woman from the niqab group told a voter as she guided the latter physically towards the voting line.

“I already voted,” the voter protested.

Men were also urged to vote yes, according to voters at the Gabriel Elementary School in the Arab district. “They say it’s the best thing for peace,” said Mahmoud, a resident of Basateen. “We want stability.”

As men gathered to listen to an ongoing discussion, voices grew louder. “’Yes’ is the answer for the revolution,” said one. “They told us Christians would vote ‘no’ because they want the country to be secular,” said another.

An impromptu cafe set up outside school walls gave voters a chance to discuss the future of the country over hookah and tea. “Voting ‘no’ is for people who have an agenda,” explained Abdel Rehim, an older gentleman who runs a tire shop a few blocks away.

“They are people who are influenced by the West.”

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