http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/06/29/155245.html

I can picture Egyptians spreading a nation-size world map and scratching their heads and rubbing their chins as they place little colored pins on all the democracies they feel can be fully or partially emulated in the coming stage. I can see pins on several places that made an impressive transition from autocracy to democracy like Latin America and East Europe, I can see one on Turkey which many believe offers a pattern that is most suited for Egypt given cultural similarities and geographical proximity, I can see one on India, the world’s greatest democracy, I can see some on former Soviet Union republics that underwent similar revolutions, I can see one on… no, this must be some kind of a joke or I must have been struck by some eye disease that places objects in all the wrong places… Iran?

The choices offered by the majority of activists, academics, and political observers as far as government systems that can applied in Egypt are concerned seem to have not been looked upon favorably by not so small a portion of Islamists apparently because words like “civil,” “secular,” or “non-religious” are used to label them. I guess they decided to search for any country that has the word “Islamic” in its name and so be it. Having to choose between Pakistan and Iran, the second must have sounded a bit milder and maybe for some strange reason more applicable.

I don’t have access to the minds and souls of the supporters of an Iranian-like regime in Egypt, but I will give myself the liberty to guess how exactly following Iran’s example can in any way effect the change for which the January 25 Revolution took place and for which Egyptians gave their lives.

Let me first start with a very important question: is any country that holds elections necessarily a democracy? If the answer is yes, then we need to make a quick review of the definition of democracy. Democracy is the political system where all citizens take part in determining the future of their country. Since it is made of “demos,” meaning “people,” and “kratos,” meaning “power,” it is simply and basically the style of governance in which power is to the people. It goes without saying, therefore, that democracy is by definition the rejection of the concentration of power in the hands of the few, let alone one single person. Now, how far does this apply to Iran? The question rephrased: what does the Supreme Leader do in Iran? Very insignificant things, indeed. He is the commander of the army, the police, the intelligence, and state security. He appoints the head of the judiciary, the directors of national radio stations and television networks, and even the preachers of mosques. He has the sole right of declaring war or establishing special tribunals. He is in full control of the 12-jurist Guardian Council which decides who can run in presidential and parliamentary elections. The next logical question would be: What is the role of the president or the members of parliament in Iran? Technically nothing. They act upon the will of the Supreme Leader to whom they have to pledge allegiance in order to come to power and continue to do so in case they want to stay in power.

Another important question: When does a regime qualify as a dictatorship? Well, there are many issues that need to be looked at to determine whether a country is dictatorial or not, on top of which is the way the government deals with the opposition. Let us take a quick look at what happened to unarmed civilians who took to the streets in 2009 in protest of the elections that earned incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad another term in office. Do we want to start talking about the role of the Basij in the violent oppression of peaceful demonstrations and may be go back a bit earlier and ask why this militia was created in the first place? Do we want to go into the details of torturing and/or raping detained protestors? What exactly is the value of the voice of people if every time they express their indignation at the government’s performance they are accused of treason and collaboration with foreign powers? Does blocking the internet and cutting phone services sound familiar? Does the name Neda Agha-Soltan ring a bell?

A third question begs for an urgent answer: is there any similarity at all between the Egyptian and Iranian revolutions? I mean other than the fact that they both toppled the regime (which is what most revolutions around the world usually do anyway)? There is no denying that the Shah’s regime was indeed corrupt and repressive and that social justice was almost entirely absent during the time of the monarchy and that a popular uprising had then become a necessity. However, the Iranian revolutionaries made a mistake that revealed an approach which can only be defined as black-and-white—a color scheme that cannot be applied in most things in life, let alone politics. They assumed that if the pre-revolution brutal ruler was Westernized and secular then the post-revolution state, which would supposedly right all the wrongs of the toppled regime, had to be a theocracy. The Iranian revolution was Islamic and the republic established in its aftermath naturally bears the same name, but this is not the case in Egypt where the grievances of the people were not centered around how secular or pro-Western the president was like the case of the Shah, but were rather about wanting to do away with a dictatorship under whose yoke they had suffered for three decades. Iranians felt there was a threat to their identity; Egyptians focused on the damage done to their humanity.

A fourth and, I promise, last question: what happened to Shiite infiltration? Wasn’t Iran until very recently the sneaky enemy that devised a destructive conspiracy against Sunni Islam and aimed at controlling the entire region from Qom? Will the Iranian model emulation package include embracing the Twelver faith or are we going to be happy with the autocratic bit only?

I would also just like to ask whoever placed the pin on Iran a simple question that requires a simpler answer: Do you know what the Egyptian revolution was about? Yes or No?