Iran’s Islamic Revolution remains popular despite Western propaganda
SOURCE: Crescent Online
The world news agenda during the first months of 2011 has been dominated by the popular protests against long-established authoritarian regimes across the Arab world, with Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak already having been forced from power, after reigns of 23 and 30 years, respectively. On February 11, meanwhile, the same day that Muba-rak’s resignation was announced by his Vice President Omar Suleiman, well over a million people turned out in Tehran to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the model that Muslim populations and Islamic movements have sought to emulate ever since. Similar celebratory demonstrations in other towns and cities across the country gave the lie to Western attempts to portray Iran as another unpopular and repressive dictatorship facing a rising tide of opposition from people fed up of the Islamic state and system.
The sheer hypocrisy of the West’s reaction to the Arab uprisings has been one of the features of recent events. One element of this has been the speed with which Western governments turned against the dictators that had served them so loyally over previous decades, condemning them as authoritarian tyrants and demanding that they respond to their oppressed peoples’ demands for freedom and democracy. As it happens, few in Arabian countries have been fooled by the West’s blatantly self-serving conversion to the causes of freedom and democracy; Arab peoples know well enough that the West will do everything to prevent their interests being threatened and the Muslims’ demands for greater independence, and for their governments to be less subservient to the West and Israel, being realised.
Another way in which the West has tried to turn the challenge of the uprisings into something that can serve its interests, is by using them to attack the Islamic Republic of Iran, the main target of their enmity in the Muslim world. They have tried to do this by promoting the minority “green” opposition movement in Iran as the same sort of popular uprising against an authoritarian system, despite the fact that what we see in Iran is actually the polar opposite of the processes unfolding in Arabian countries. While the Arabian states have long had pro-Western dictatorships that exist to serve the interests of Washington and its allies, at the expense of their own people, Iran has been a genuinely independent country since 1979, with a popular, participatory political system reflecting the values, priorities and interests of its people rather than any outside powers. This is why millions of ordinary Iranians took to the streets last month to celebrate the anniversary of the Revolution, and to demonstrate their determination to stand up to its enemies, internal and external.
The small pro-Western opposition in Iran is very far from the sort of mass opposition movement that we are seeing in Arabian countries, despite constant Western attempts to build it up in recent years. Last month’s protests against the Islamic government in Iran were attended only by a few hundred people, compared to the hundreds of thousands who turned out to celebrate the anniversary of the Revolution. The disproportionate coverage they received in the world media, alongside images of far greater popular protests against the pro-Western dictators in Arabian countries, was grossly misleading. Unfortunately for the powers that be in Washington, London and Tel Aviv, it is the realities on the ground that count, not the image that the media tries to convey to ignorant and misguided people elsewhere.
The real parallel is not between current opposition in Iran and events in the Arab world, but between what the Iranian people managed to achieve in 1979 and what the Arab people are aspiring to now: genuinely independent governments that will reflect their political ideologies and interests rather than anyone else’s, and will stand up to US and Israeli interests rather than kowtowing to them. Given genuine freedom to choose their own rulers, there is little doubt that Arab peoples would turn to their Islamic movements and leaders, as Iranians did in 1979; it is not irrelevant that, as well as the Ikhwan having long been established as the main opposition party in Egypt, despite years of repression, Hizbullah and Hamas also remain among the most popular political movements among Arabs generally. Unfortunately Arab people are unlikely to be given that option, and perhaps know better that to aim for it, bearing in mind the consequences for Algerians when they dared to elect FIS to power in 1991. If Arab peoples in some countries appear ready to settle for reform rather than revolution, albeit with new faces in charge, one reason is undoubtedly the fear of the possible consequences — for themselves, their countries and societies — of demanding real rights. They and their Islamic movements are perhaps realistic enough to know that no other people will be allowed to achieve what the Iranian people achieved 32 years ago.
Iran meanwhile remains a beacon of genuine freedom and independence in the Muslim world, a reminder to Muslim peoples of what is possible, and to the West of what Muslims remain capable of, given the opportunity to achieve it. The world media may have ignored the massive support for the Islamic Republic demonstrated across the country last month, but Western leaders must have noted it and become all the more determined both to ensure that no Islamic state is allowed to emerge elsewhere, and to destroy the one that does exist. However the pro-Western power structures in Arabian countries may be rearranged
in response to the popular protests against the long-established dictators in those countries, the West’s determination not to permit another Islamic revolution will remain undiminished. Muslims around the world, meanwhile, must not lose sight of the fact that protecting the one Islamic state that does exist must remain a crucial priority for its supporters and sympathisers everywhere.
The real parallel is not between current opposition in Iran and events in the Arab world, but between what the Iranian people managed to achieve in 1979 and what the Arab people are aspiring to now: genuinely independent governments that will reflect their political ideologies and interests rather than anyone else’s…
Iqbal Siddiqui is a former editor of Crescent International (1998–2008). He now publishes a personal blog, ‘A Sceptical Islamist’: http://scepticalislamist.typepad.com.