Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s praise of the Egyptian people and encouragement of Cairo’s protesters in the past two weeks have a satirical edge; especially given the pair’s violent wrath towards their own people’s demands in June 2009. Of course it’s their assumption that Islam is the id of the Egyptian people, and therefore warrants this encouragement. In this equation support for citizens free expression is irrelevant.
It was with great relish that I received news of a brilliant twist in the tale, when last Monday Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi seized the opportunity to expose the façade of the Iranian leadership — and reignite the opposition — by making a formal request to march in support of the Tunisian and Egyptian people’s uprising. Karroubi also gave a rare interview to the New York Times.
It would seem that the leadership were painted into a corner and would, consistent with the admiration they’d shown, be left no choice but to grant this. But consistency has never been a consideration and the request was met with silence.
Silence. And the house arrest of Karroubi by Thursday. Regardless, Facebook pages were created and word spread…Monday 14 February, Freedom Square, Tehran. Soon tandem events emerged in Qom, Babol, Esfahan and elsewhere in Iran as the desire of people to once again take to the streets became palpable. Before long control of access to information became paramount, culminating in the comically desperate move by the state to filter the word “Bahman” — the current calendar month — barring it from the internet so people couldn’t find out where and when to meet, or what — if anything — was happening.
No matter, as Iranians returned to old fashioned methods, with reports of teenagers sent door to door alerting people to be there on Monday. Scroll down this Facebook wall and you’ll see notices written on walls, in phone booths, on the side of buses, rubbish bins and scribbled on bank notes. Moussavi’s Facebook page declares that they will go ahead with or without permission. And Karroubi’s latest statement since house arrest proclaims: “The people know what to do.”
In observing from afar, the parallels and comparisons between Egypt now and Iran 30 years ago have been inevitable with speculation on lessons learned.
The Egyptian people claimed their victory on 11 February (22 Bahman) the exact anniversary of the Iranian revolution 32 years ago. For Iranians, watching was bittersweet. But the dignity and determination of the Iranian people 18 months ago has not been forgotten as this jubilant Egyptian declares on Friday in Cairo:
Last night the rooftop protests resumed their echo across Tehran.
A Facebook status earlier this week expressed it best:
On motorbikes in Tehran, camels in Egypt, either way, death to the Dictator!