Shockwaves from Egypt’s Successful Protest Whip Across Middle East
The shockwaves from last week’s successful demonstrations in Egypt that toppled a longtime autocrat are now whipping across the Middle East. Where it ends, no one really knows — but don’t expect some of these governments to sit back and let what happened to Egypt happen to them:
Egypt’s uprising has sent powerful shockwaves across the Middle East , with two deaths reported in street clashes in Iran and Bahrain and violent demonstrations in Yemen, as further protests and strikes erupted across Egypt.
Thousands of Iranians defied a government ban and volleys of teargas to join a rally in Azadi Square in the centre of Tehran. The protests were the biggest since those that erupted after the disputed 2009 presidential elections.
Mir Hossein Mousavi, leader of the Iranian Green movement, was placed under house arrest, as was Mehdi Karroubi, another prominent opposition figure. Protest rallies were also held in Isfahan and Shiraz.
Iran’s Islamic regime has hailed the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, though neither involved organised activity by Islamist opposition movements. Both protests were led by young people seeking political freedoms and an end to autocracy – just like many Iranian demonstrators.
Large numbers of police and security forces, wearing riot gear and many mounted on motorbikes, were stationed around Tehran’s main squares. Mobile phone connections were down in the area of the protests.
Unrest in the Gulf island state of Bahrain on a “day of rage” organised by activists using Twitter and Facebook appeared to be similarly inspired by events in Cairo and Tunis but rooted in local factors, especially anger at discrimination against the Shia majority by the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty.
And Washington is acknowledging what’s going on — particularly in Iran. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reminding Iran — and the world — that it was all in favor of demonstrations in favor of democracy last week. But not this week, when there are demonstrations in its own country:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that Tehran’s crackdown on demonstrators, after it had praised the popular uprising in Egypt, shows the “hypocrisy” of the Iranian government. Clinton said steps by the Egyptian military thus far to manage a democratic transition are reassuring.
U.S. officials have made no secret of their irritation over the Iranian government’s suppression of dissent, while claiming credit for popular foment in Egypt and elsewhere in the region.
Clinton’s comments after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol with House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner were the most pointed so far.
Emerging after a budget discussion with the new House leader, Clinton said the United States “clearly and directly” supports the aspirations of the protesters in Iran, who were violently dispersed on Monday by security forces in Tehran.
She said the United States stood for political change in Egypt and wants the same for Iran. Clinton stressed the irony of the Iranian government’s crackdown at home, while paying lip service to the rights of protestors elsewhere.
“What we see happening in Iran today is a testament to the courage of the Iranian people and an indictment of the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime – a regime, which over the last three weeks has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt. And now, when given the opportunity to afford their people the same rights as they called for on behalf of the Egyptian people, [Iran’s leaders] once again illustrate their true nature,” she said.
And, indeed, Iran’s actions do have a strong odor of dictatorship. Such as this:
Iranian police Monday blocked access to the house of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and cut his telephone lines to prevent him attending a rally in support of Arab revolts, his website said.
“Security forces have sent police vans and vehicles to the alley where the house of Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard is located” in Tehran, Kaleme.com reported.
“From today the police have blocked the alley where their house is located…There is no possibility of coming and going” to the house, it said.
The report said all telephone lines at the house, including the mobile phone connections of Mousavi and his wife, have been severed.
Kaleme.com said the latest “illegal and restrictive measures and pressures were adopted to prevent Mousavi from taking part in a rally in support of the people of Tunisia and Egypt.”
Mousavi and fellow opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi had sought permission from Iran’s interior ministry to hold a rally on Monday to express their solidarity with uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Iran has backed the Arab uprisings but the interior ministry refused to permit the opposition rally as officials believe it is a ploy to stage fresh anti-government demonstrations as seen in 2009 after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.