News / Middle East

Egypt Uprising Draws Comparisons With Iran

Iranian protests during the 1979 Islamic Revolution
Iranian protests during the 1979 Islamic Revolution


Henry Ridgwell

On Friday Iran will mark the anniversary of its Islamic revolution. Thirty-two years on, world leaders are reassessing their relations with Egypt in the wake of the anti-government protests there, with some wondering whether it will follow a similar path to Iran. But many observers say the Egyptian protesters are not motivated by religion.

Just what is the motivating force driving the millions of protesters on the streets of Egyptian cities - and where will it all end? They are questions on the minds of many world leaders.
Some analysts say history is repeating itself - the start of an Islamic revolution in Egypt, just like Iran in 1979.

But many who’ve witnessed the protests first-hand disagree.

“This is not an Islamic takeover," said Shiraz Maher, of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization in London, who has just returned from Cairo.  "I was in Tahrir Square doing research for our office here and really when you speak to those guys, they’re clear that this is about very basic things. It’s about human rights, it’s about freedom, about liberty and reclaiming their dignity as Egyptians.”

At first glance the scenes of protest and violence in Egypt are strikingly similar to the newsreels of 1979 from Iran.

Then, anti-government demonstrations gained momentum and spawned violent street battles, as the U.S.-backed Shah monarchy was swept from power. Iran was declared an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Khomeini.

Iranian-born analyst Hazhir Teimourian was a journalist covering the Iranian revolution for international media. He says there are ominous parallels between those events and what’s now unfolding in Egypt.

“The Iranians told themselves that, ‘Nothing worse can happen to us, we want the Shah to go and then we will agree among ourselves about the succeeding government.’ The Egyptians are making the same mistake and unfortunately things can go wrong," he said. "Unfortunately they are not united, apart from wanting to see the back of Mubarak.”

No single opposition group in Egypt has majority support.

The Muslim Brotherhood remains the most powerful; they say they do not seek power, nor an Islamic takeover in Egypt.

Shiraz Maher, of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization, says America and the West should have been quicker to back the protesters.

“People are starting to become despondent," he said. "They are saying, 'Where are the kinds of values and freedoms that you want to hold for yourselves but suddenly it’s not good enough for Egyptians?' And so inevitably I think if people are going to feel betrayed, if people are going to feel ‘It’s good enough for you but it’s not good enough for us’ or ‘We’re always going to be distrusted because we’re Arab or Muslim’, then that ultimately will play into the hands of Islamist groups.”

Maher says there is a well-established network of radical Muslim groups in Egypt. But the protesters have not looked to them for leadership.

That’s in contrast to Iran - where the Ayatollah Khomeini was the figurehead of the protests.

Analyst Hazhir Temourian remains pessimistic for Egypt’s long-term political future.

“We expect the population of Egypt to increase from 85 million now to 120 million by the middle of this century," he said. "A whole third of them are under 15. Sixty percent of the people of Egypt are under 30. I think that no mode of governance, clean and democratic or religious or whatever, is going to answer the rising expectations of that many young people.”

Teimourian says that’s a situation facing governments across the developing world - and the uprising in Egypt is likely to be repeated far beyond its borders.

You May Like

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Report: US to Sail Warships Near Disputed S. China Sea Islands

Move will signal nonrecognition of Chinese territorial claims over area, Financial Times reports, citing senior US official More

Study Describes Ancient Deltas, Lakes on Mars

Research builds on recent NASA announcement that water flows on red planet today More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs