Thursday, 10 February 2011

Iran 1979, Egypt 2011: history repeating?

The Guardian website's rolling coverage of the Egyptian revolution today has this interesting account, by the paper's Middle East editor Ian Black, of a BBC phone-in programme. The interactive programme was a joint effort by the BBC's Arabic and Persian services, broadcast yesterday, discussing similarities and differences between the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the current upheavals in Egypt.

'An Iranian caller warned Egyptians to take steps not to allow an Islamic government to take over. "Do you intend to let the Qur'an influence the new constitution after your regime changes?" he asked.

The caller from Cairo replied: "Absolutely not. We have no such intentions, as the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood have already assured. This is not an Islamic uprising. We intend to bring about a united revolution and are aiming for democracy and a secular and transparent government. This will not be a move toward Islamisation of our nation. We want to be a modern secular society like the western world. You don't hear any talk of an Islamic current being discussed among the protesters."

Another Cairene rejected the claim of an Iranian from Mashhad that the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the uprising in Egypt had "haunting similarities".

"This is not correct," the Egyptian replied. "There are many differences between what is happening in Egypt and 1979 [in Iran]. The leadership is different. Our movement calls for democracy and freedom. It is a popular movement without a particular ideology. Our demands are obvious and simple. This is a popular movement. It is not possible to describe is as an Islamic movement, because it is a revolution of all people."

Iranian and Arab callers both emphasised the importance of social media and Facebook.

Many compared the Egyptian protests to Iran's Green Movement and the post-election demonstrations in June 2009. They urged the Iranian opposition to learn lessons from Tunisia and Egypt. "They should not to go home when it gets dark in the evening this time," said one caller. People in Iran should "stay out until they prevail".

Protests are scheduled in Iran on Monday to mark the anniversary of the revolution.

BBC callers also discussed differences between the way plainclothes police, riot police, and the army treated demonstrators in each country. One viewer emailed to say: "The Tunisian military joined the people, the Egyptian army stood aside, and their police did not dare get very violent. But the Iranian armed forces decided to obey the rulers and turned their backs on their own people."

An Egyptian said: "These events are like a tsunami that will take down all dictatorships and will soon topple all despots in the region."'


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