Monday, February 07, 2011

Mundo árabe 2011 != Irão 1979

Arab revolutions transcend Iran's, por

The "either us or them" argument, however, had an earlier incarnation in a mantra often used by Iran's Shah. In his day, it was not Islamism but communism that struck fear in the Western heart, and that is what he suggested would replace him were he to fall. Ensuring against a Red Iran was the impetus behind the CIA coup that placed him on the throne in 1953 - and guaranteed him US support until the bitter end. As a result, the real story of the Iranian revolution – that it was a highly organised, mosque-based movement that over the course of several years had built up the momentum at last to topple the Shah – was ignored until too late.

Arab uprisings of 2011

Looking at the movements in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan as what they really are – rather than as what they are feared to be - reveals broad-based popular uprisings that do not bear the Islamist organisational or ideational imprint. The Egyptians in the streets, much like presumptive coalition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei and women's rights activist Nawal El Saadawi, all state categorically that what is happening in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood. The demonstrations were started by bloggers, social media activists, Al Jazeera watchers - not by the Brotherhood - which joined the demonstrations three days later. There are no Islamist banners being held up in the streets, no Islamist leaders jumping on soap boxes calling the faithful to jihad.

In Iran in 1979, there were as many banners bearing Islamic slogans as there were banners calling for the Shah to go. The drumbeat of the demonstrations marked Shia holidays, such as Ashura and Tasua, and followed the 40-day Shia mourning ritual for 'martyrs' killed by the Shah’s army. The voices of Ayatollah Khomeini and other clerics led the demonstrations through exhortations at Friday prayers. In many demonstrations, the women and the men marched separately - the women shrouded in black, head-to-toe chadors. From the outset, for anyone willing to read it, the writing was on the wall: Iran's revolution was Islamic.

The Arab demonstrations look nothing like the ones in Iran at that time. In Tunis, Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia with no hint that Islamist groups – let alone al-Qaeda imports – had contributed to his ouster. And in Cairo and Amman, the women and men, boys and girls are marching side-by-side, calling for the right to vote, empowerment and human rights.

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