Iran: The Next Egypt?In the past few weeks, talk-show pundits, political scholars and legislators have attempted to interpret what these new waves of protests around the Middle East mean for the region and the world. But what everyone’s analysis is missing is the most powerful and feared country in the region’s potential to experience the rise of a truly grassroots democratic movement.
That country is Iran.
Now that unrest has developed throughout the Middle East in countries such as Yemen, Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, it only makes sense to look at Iran and predict what will happen, considering the United States’ strategic geopolitical position in the region. Iran’s Green Movement, a series of protests and journalistic activism in the wake of Iran’s botched 2009 election, will become revitalized in the next month because of two main reasons.
Iran and Egypt share similarities politically and socio-economically that will play a vital role in the revitalization of the Green Movement in Iran. Secondly, the recent protests in Iran shows their desire for democratic reform that was rekindled by the overthrow of the Tunisian and Egyptian governments.
Both countries are controlled by an elitist aristocratic military. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is riddled with prominent businessmen who also happen to be colonels and generals with close ties to political leaders that run the country. In Egypt, every president that has enjoyed the luxury of the position since the overthrow of the monarchy in the 1960s has been from the upper-echelon of the military. In both countries, the military has more power than any other group of individuals politically and economically.
Both populations are predominantly younger than the age of 30. Their unemployment figures are nearly identical, from 40 to 50 percent. Because the populous youth of both countries feel as if they have been unfairly kept out of work, they came together to protest against their governments.
As all political junkies will note, Iran has been the target of U.S. interest regarding their nuclear program and alleged ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations throughout the region. What is not being considered is the Iranian people’s will to become a modern democracy. After a botched election in 2009 that saw in some districts more than 100 percent turnout for presidential incumbent Ahmed Ahmedinejad, the country witnessed some of the most violent protests they had endured since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Two years of continued demonstrations against the government’s obvious voter fraud, ballot stuffing, and political intimidation did little to prevent the government from implementing extremely harsh tactics including politically motivated arrests and censorship of opposition journalists, activists and politicians. The issue was ignored and eventually forgotten by the international community.
Despite the rest of the world’s forgetfulness, many Iranians longing for a change in government vividly remember the illegalities of the 2009 election.
In fact, political oppression has erupted during Iran’s recent demonstrations in the form of attacks on foreign journalists, en masse arrests of protesters and even murder.
The Iranian people want a change of government and policy, but the political reality on the ground is that the opposition’s intellectuals and leaders are frequently harassed, beaten, arrested and sometimes even killed.
The amount of oppression against the Iranian people in the next few months will greatly determine the Green Movement’s ability to mobilize their followers to successfully gain political change.
Overall, tension in Tehran is only going to increase and there is potential for the country to continue to mobilize because of the inspiring events that have unfolded on the streets of Cairo. The political oppression the government is imposing could break the will of the Iranian people to continue towards the path of freedom. But now that other Middle Eastern countries have removed their governments through populist uprisings, the Iranian people could overcome the brutality of the Revolutionary Guard and Iran’s secret police force, the Basij.
The people of Iran have a strong determination to overcome the iron fist of their government. Although protesters have been beaten, bloodied and bruised, within the next month we will see a revitalized opposition movement in Iran marching in Azadi Square to protest the government’s human rights abuses and political oppression. The people of Iran came close to their goals of reform in 2009, but this time they will learn from their shortcomings. The revitalization of the Green Movement will be a reality eventually, but only time will tell when exactly that will happen.