Saturday, June 05, 2004
“Khomenei used them all. Maybe we should have handled or addressed problems differently”. Those words are found in the recently published memoirs of former Iranian Empress Farah Pahlavi, “An Enduring Love: My Life with the Shah”. Empress Pahlavi ran away from Iran along with her ailing husband after the Islamic Revolution broke out in 1979. Shah Pahlavi then trotted around the world seeking a save haven for him and his family. After shamefully being asked to leave the US by the Carter administration (that was soaked in the Tehran hostage crisis), the Shah found no where to go except to his trusted friend Anwar Sadad, the late president of Egypt. After a few months, Shah Pahlavi died from cancer in the lymph nodes and was buried in Cairo.
Why am I saying all this? Well, Empress Pahlavi’s words above shed light on some similarities between Egypt today and Iran 25 years ago. During the reign of the secular Shah, he embarked on a program of Westernization that alienated his religious dissidents. His very warm relations with the US and Israel did not help him in winning any favor with Ayatollah Khomenei and his ilk who were living in Paris at the time. His harsh methods of suppressing any dissident voice and the deteriorating economic situation made his reign so unpopular. Khomenei used the anger and humiliation felt by the Iranian people very well. He convinced them that the Shah is an enemy of God and his US backers are major contributors to their misery. Girls started wearing the veil as a sign of protest against the Shah and Khomenei’s smuggled cassette tapes were priced as jewels. To sum up, Khoemenei and the rest of the mullah gang used them all; they used the humiliation felt by the people and convinced them that they alone can bring God’s paradise on earth. After 25 years, it is now clear that Khomenei was a big fat liar and the theocratic establishment is clearly breathing its last breaths.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the other Islamic organizations are playing Khomenei’s game in Egypt today. They are feeding on our frustration from the current regime and our dissatisfaction with the way the country is heading. Just a couple of month ago, the Muslim Brotherhood presented a “democracy initiative” where they spelled out the “values” that they believe in. We won’t find much difference if we compared their initiative to the US Bill of Rights! It calls for democracy, rotating government, and equality for Egypt’s Christian population. Their move reminded me of Khomenei and his promises to the Iranian people.
Will the Egyptian people rise up against the current government and choose an Islamic one instead? Even though the Islamist groups are the most powerful opposition block, I still do not believe that Egypt can witness a revolution a la Iran 1979 for 3 main reasons. First, the current president is holding the country quite well. Second, Egyptians in general are timid people who just want to live a peaceful life. We know we have problems and we often make jokes about those problems. I don’t sense that the majority want to risk challenging the status quo. Thirdly, I frankly do not believe that the majority of Egyptians can soak in nor accept Islamic rule a la Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Taliban’s Afghanistan. Yes more and more girls are getting veils, and more and more boys are growing beards, but they still want to “enjoy a little bit of life”.
www.farahpahlavi.org Empress Farah Pahlavi website.