Meidane Azadi to Midan Tahrir
Sir-- Assalamu alaikum and congratulations on your victory!
Azadi is our word for Tahrir, and Meidan Azadi is the central square in Tehran which is so closely tied to our attempts to gain our freedom. We, Iranians and Egyptians, share much history, culture, religion, and now we share this date, 11 February. I want to share as well some of the lessons learned by people of Meidan Azadi since we deposed our own dictator 32 years ago.
One thing I have admired in Egyptians is your sense of balance and moderation. We in Iran have a tendency to be a bit more extreme in our words. We called our dictator, the shah, our pharaoh, and we called our leader, Ayatullah Khomeini, our Moses. The reality is that as bad as he was, the shah was not as bad as pharaoh, and even though he had some good qualities, Khomeini was clearly not in the category of the prophets.
We are also fond of harsh slogans. Instead of shouting "leave Mubarak" we shouted "death to the Shah". Instead of demanding an end to US control of our country, we shouted "death to America".
You may excuse this, and many did, as innocent revolutionary fervour and release of righteous anger. After all, the shah, the USA, and others had seriously harmed Iran and contributed to the abuse and exploitation of the Iranian people over many decades. But such extreme slogans made extreme actions more acceptable. Slogans of death to our enemies made unjust violence easier, leading the post-revolutionary regime to commit terrible abuses. These slogans prevented the implementation of moderate and rational policies, especially in foreign affairs.
And on the other side, excessive praise for our leaders, putting them in the same category as the holy prophets, also caused great harm to our revolution. Such high praise made it easier to justify and demand unquestioning obedience. Excessive praise harmed our leaders.
So, dear Egyptian brothers and sisters, please learn from our mistake and avoid extreme slogans. I understand that emotions are high, that the abuse of your people has been severe, and the theft of your nation's wealth has been extensive. But those who utter extreme slogans and propose extreme actions will harm you.
In Iran under the shah, many families had grown extremely wealthy through corruption, and after the victory of the revolution, anyone with considerable wealth was treated with suspicion. Unfortunately, in trying to correct this injustice, good and bad were destroyed together, and the nation lost some of its more productive business leaders.
In 1979 my father used to say "there is a little shah inside of each Iranian". Iran had lived with dictatorship for so long that each person had a twisted idea of leadership. The shah oppressed his nation, the manager oppressed his employees, the father oppressed his family. Is it possible to live under decades of dictatorship and not be subconsciously affected? Is there a little Mubarak in each Egyptian? This is a threat that each must struggle with inside. Make your heart a Midan Tahrir, liberating yourself from the little Mubarak inside you.
People can be swayed by demagogues. Many of the injustices done in Iran after our revolution were done with the majority of Iranians in agreement. You need your own moral compass, and to speak out for justice, even if the majority disagrees.
In a democracy the government reflects the people. If the people are fair and wise, so will Egypt's new rulers. But if the people are impatient, greedy, or uneducated, the outcome will be hardship. The solution the dictators provide to this problem is to let them rule, so they can protect the people from themselves. That is why Suleiman and Mubarak liked to refer to you as their children, so they could act as your protecting guardian.
But you, the people of Tahrir, have rejected the solution provided by your leaders. Therefore, you now have no choice other than to pour your energy into raising up the education and character of all of Egyptian society. You simply can no longer afford to neglect any Egyptian because every one will have a vote and a voice.
While you celebrated, vast billions of people around the world celebrated with you. But be warned that some few but powerful people were sad. "Hatred has already appeared on their lips, what their hearts conceal is far worse." The moment you regained your dignity, they were humiliated. They will not sit back and allow you to succeed easily. They wish you to fail, and for a new dictator to come to power, someone they can bribe and control. They want to be able to say "Arabs are not ready for democracy".
In Iran, such people started their attack from the first days after the victory of the revolution. First, armed uprisings started in many provinces, then terror attacks, killing hundreds of officials and common people. Rumours were manufactured and rapidly spread. Good men where defamed and evil men praised and raised up. War and economic sanctions were imposed on the nation. We felt as if powerful forces were punishing the Iranian people in order to get revenge for standing up for our rights and in order to teach people like you, watching from a distance, a lesson to not try to repeat what we did.
But, praise God, the people of Iran were able to withstand these attacks. In spite of deep political and ideological differences, when the nation was threatened, they united. I pray that Egypt is protected from people who wish you to fail, but if they do try to harm you, you can succeed only by putting aside your differences and unite as one nation.
As a result of repeated threats, many Iranians gradually became accepting of dictatorship. Some felt that speaking out would weaken the nation. Men in power cynically abused our trust and loyalty to the nation. A few brave men and women exposed their abuses and tried to reform the system, but they were a small minority and easily isolated. By the time the majority of Iranians realised the truth and were prepared to speak out, we had a new entrenched elite with considerable military and economic control. They claimed legitimacy because they fought against Iran's enemies, but soon they themselves became the real enemies of the Iranian people.
Anyone who tries to take away your dignity, your freedom, your voice, your democracy, for whatever excuse, should be resisted. Anyone who speaks for justice and freedom should be appreciated and defended. They are your true friends.
Thank you for your bravery that has brought hope to people in Iran. We celebrate with you, and we stand with you in praying for and struggling for a free, democratic, and prosperous Middle East.
The way you fought
Sir-- What great news from Egypt! Peacefully and determined the people fought for freedom and justice. The peaceful and massive character of the protests means that the military will either have to work towards democracy or lose its legitimacy. We are hoping for the former of course.
A big question is the attitude a democratic Egypt will take towards Israel. The indignation about the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel, now and in the past, may lead Egypt to a course of confrontation. My advice for Egypt is to avoid military confrontation at all costs, but fight Israeli expansionism like its people fought Mubarak. Both fights are (or were) much more likely to be won when fought as a moral instead of as a physical fight.
The weak spot of both Mubarak's rule and Israel's expansionism is their lack of legitimacy. So legitimacy (or more precisely the excuses for constructing legitimacy) should be withheld from them. Had the Egyptian protesters used violence, Mubarak might have persuaded the army to use violence against them, and he would probably have saved himself. Similarly, when Egypt deployed its army in the Sinai in 1967 in response to Israeli provocations at the Syrian border, Israel used this as an excuse to attack, conquer and later colonise the Gaza Strip, the Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. It is important to avoid a repetition.
During the revolution Mubarak held a few speeches in which it became clear that he had constructed an image of reality in which his rule was moral. He called himself a father of his people, a servant of his nation and the guardian of stability. He told an Israeli MK that without him Egypt would be reigned in by extremism and radical Islam. Similarly, Israel is constantly constructing an image of reality in which its expansionism is moral. Usually it denies that its expansionist actions are driven by expansionism. Its most important tactic is to disguise expansionism as security-ism.
Not only the fight against Mubarak should inspire us, but also the fight against apartheid. In both cases oppressed people employed a moral appeal and forced the West to support them. These fights were won because they were fought as moral fights. Israeli expansionism can be beaten in the same way.
In their interests
Sir-- The empire does not give a damn if the targeted person for regime change is anti-imperialist or not ('Learning from others' mistakes' Al-Ahram Weekly 3-9 March). They follow their geopolitical interest in the region.
Mubarak's usefulness was over, therefore, they trained their NED agents, 6 April youth movement to kick Mubarak out of power to bring someone more cooperative with the US geopolitical agenda whose image is not as negative as Mubarak.
Although Mubarak considered being Washington's man, there were areas of tension between the Mubarak regime and the United States regarding US geopolitical interests in the Horn of Africa and Sudan. The US and Israel were using every single avenue to destabilise Sudan for partition into smaller and weaker states to benefit Israel. This policy viewed against Egypt's interest and her sovereignty by Mubarak.
Sir-- According to lawyers and human right organisations in Egypt, over 1,000 protesters have been detained by the Egyptian security forces. Many were beaten up by riot police and State Security Investigations officers during their arrest and beaten again once detained at Central Security camps. They had their mobile phones confiscated and those injured were denied adequate medical care. They were also denied immediate access to a lawyer.
I call on human rights watchdogs to investigate the killings and the abuses by the security forces. I call on the authorities to release or charge those detained with an internationally recognisable offence and try them in fair proceedings.
Awoken at last
Sir-- Finally, Muslims are waking up from a long slumber. This is going to be a decade of Islamic awakening and it will change the world.
Sir-- What if some protesters in one of the cities in the US claim that they took over the control of the city and they are about to form an interim government and the so-called international community recognises them as legitimate? Will that really be legitimate?
Sir-- Good luck ordinary people all over the Middle East. Please establish a real multi-party democracy and live peacefully together with one another, and with Israel.
Sir-- Since you got his billions you don't need any of our money.
Around the corner
Sir-- Be mindful but be patient. September will come soon enough.
Sir-- I wonder how many it would take in DC to call for Obama's removal.