THE BLOG

Democracy in Egypt Would Be a Bad Example for Iran!

As tension rises on the streets of Cairo and other cities in Egypt, speculation and anxiety has also been increasing in Iran. The people of the two nations, which had been so close for ages, were ripped apart when a revolution took place in Iran and an Islamic regime replaced the monarch Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. The final place in the world to give shelter to the ill king of Iran was Egypt. The last king of Iran took rest in Cairo in the place where nearly 50-years before he departed with his first bride, princess Fawzia, and took her with him to Tehran. His destiny turned to be laid to rest near his former wife and his half Egyptian daughter, Shahnaz.

President Hosni Mobarak, who was extremely close to late President Anwar Sadat and came to power after his assassination by radical Islamist Khaled Islamboli, never forgave the Iranian regime for its jubilation about Sadat's assassination. Both reformist president Mohammad Khatami, who came to power back in 1997, up to and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put lots of effort into improving relations with Egypt. President Ahmadinejad in two interviews with the Egyptian Gazette English newspaper admitted his willingness to move relations between the two countries to a higher level as soon as President Husni Mubarak agreed. "As soon as we have relations, I will open our embassy overnight in Cairo," the Iranian president said.

And now with the uprising on Egypt's streets, the willingness to have an embassy and better relations with Cairo is increasing among ordinary Iranians as well as the leaders of the Islamic Republic. No matter who becomes the next president of Egypt, for Iranians this change predicts that the days of bad relations and bitterness between the two nations may soon be over. Just as when the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime allowed many devoted Iranian shia'as to fulfill their dream of visiting holy sites in Iraq -- an impossible dream during Saddam Hussein's era -- now many Iranians are starting to wonder if they may soon be allowed to go on their first tour of Egypt's great pyramids and the tomb of the late king Pahlavi in the Refahi's mosque. May this dream soon become a reality?

As much as ordinary people are excited for these new changes, the Islamic regime closely watching the developments in Cairo is anxious and cautious. The regime is anxious because it is not sure what kind of government may replace president Mubarak, and whether a new government will have similar interests as the Iranian regime and like Iran, wish to put end to the icy relations of the two countries for the last 32 years. It is cautious for fear of the influence that the Egyptian public's uprising against President Mubarak and his long term of power can have on Iranians. Those Iranians who came to the streets two years ago to demonstrate against Iran's presidential election immediately began to make their real demand and show their true aim in protesting -- to show their anger against the supreme leader who took power twenty years ago and shows no sign of stepping down or reducing his absolute power. The Iranian protests were crushed heavily by the supreme leader's loyal guards and security forces. But now Iranians are seeing their old friend Egypt demonstrate against a totalitarian government and it may wake them up again, just like the people in Jordan and Yemen in recent days.

But there is also another side to the story. Most radical clergy in Iran like to stick to this side of the story and see the Egyptian movement as under influence of the revolution that happened in Iran 32-years ago. Today, when I talked with several Egyptians in New York City, they expressed their fear that if some of the Islamic radical movements jumped on the wave of change and democracy in Egypt, the nation could end up having a kind of regime similar to that which Iran has today. This awakens the bitter memory of the revolution that happened in Iran three decades ago and gives the Egyptians great vision of knowing what exactly to ask of the next government that comes to power in Egypt. Perhaps the awakening of Egyptians will awaken the Iranian people to stand up for their rights again. And it may be that after many years of efforts by Iranian presidents to re-establish Tehran's relationship with Cairo, Iran may find itself no longer wanting relations in a post-Mubarak era. Democracy in Egypt would be a bad example for Iran!