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Iran Sees 'Islamic Awakening' In Arab World Uprisings


Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during Friday Prayers in Tehran on February 4.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during Friday Prayers in Tehran on February 4.

On Friday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei described the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, and other Arab countries as an Islamic awakening. Khamenei said the uprisings, if successful, would lead to the failure of U.S. policies in the region.

The Iranian leader praised the protesters in Egypt and called President Hosni Mubaraka a traitor and America’s servant. Khamenei accused the United States of backing corrupt leaders in the region in order to protect its own interests.

Khamenei said the 1979 revolution that led to the fall of the shah served as a model for the Arab revolt. He said, however, that the 2009 protests in Iran against the disputed reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad were planned by foreign countries.

"I’ve said many times the planner, organizer, and the executive producer was and is outside of these borders," he said. "Inside the country some cooperated with them -- some intentionally, other unknowingly.”

Iranian officials have linked the protests in Egypt and other Arab countries to the 1979 revolution in Iran that led to the fall of the shah. Others, including members of Iran’s opposition movement, see similarities with the 2009 unrest that shook the Iranian establishment.

In Washington, the White House reacted to Khamenei’s comments by pointing to the 2009 street protests in Iran.

"It is remarkable that Iran would make a statement given their actions when it came to their people exercising the same rights that people are exercising now in Cairo," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on February 4.

Many comparisons have been made between the methods Tehran used to crush the Green Movement and the tactics Egypt has used to silence the protest movement, including shutting down the Internet and SMS services.

Some Iranian opposition activists who took part in the mass protests in Tehran and other cities have said the Iranian crackdown was tougher.

One Iranian journalist who was jailed in the postelection crackdown and released on bail wrote on Facebook: "While in Egypt journalists are being attacked and detained a week after the anti-Mubarak protests, in Iran journalists were targeted from Day One.”

Iranian officials, who were silent when pro-government forces attacked activists who took part in the street protests, are now saying they’re concerned about the violence against anti-Mubarak protesters.

Among them is parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who earlier this week (February 3) blamed the United States for the violence, saying: "If you’re after real democracy, you shouldn’t have ordered horses and camels to attack the demonstrators so violently. This is a Camel Democracy.”

Larijani added that targeting the Internet does not stop dissent.

“Today’s youth are aware of political issues," he said. "Shutting down the Internet does not solve anything.”

Larijani has a point. The draconian Internet censorship in Iran has also not stopped young people from expressing dissent and accessing tens of thousands of blocked websites through antifiltering software.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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