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Opinion: Iran can learn from Arab protest movements

The protests in Tunis and Cairo showed that the democracy movement can bring about political change. DW's Jamsheed Faroughi says Iran's opposition can learn from its counterparts in the Arab world.

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Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fears his opponents. The rally to show support for Egypt's democracy movement was banned in Iran. Security forces sealed off the homes of opposition leaders Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, satellite programs and mobile phone networks were disrupted. In short: authorities did everything possible in order to impede the planned demonstration.

But the measures were in vain. Despite threats and a massive presence of security forces, thousands of opposition activists marched through Tehran on Monday. Protests were also reported in other major cities across the country.

Jamsheed Faroughi

Jamsheed Faroughi

The message is clear. The new wave of demonstrations in Iran has shown quite clearly that the so-called Green Movement is alive, despite brutal force and political persecution. The calm evident on the streets in the past months is illusive and fragile.

The dissatisfaction with the dominating circumstances is just as great in Iran as it is in Tunisia and Egypt. Violence and oppression are not suitable means to solve society's problems in the Middle East, either.

The development in Iran also shows that despots are incapable of learning. Iran's president Ahmadinejad did not understand the signals from Cairo just as little as the Shah of Persia heard the cries for freedom and democracy 32 years ago.

The Tunisian democracy movement has sparked a political earthquake in the entire region. Its offshoots are shaking the Arab world and have now reached Iran. There are differences between Tunis, Tehran and Cairo, but also many similarities.

Discontent shapes the lives of the masses in this region. This discontent is not only of financial nature, but rather a complex phenomenon. It is the emergence of societies which have come of age. But they are ruled by corrupt leaders who are incapable of sensing the change and reacting to these changed circumstances.

A new generation has grown up in these young societies: the Internet generation. It is open-minded and networked with like-minded counterparts worldwide. These young people compare themselves to youths from western industrial nations. That rouses great expectations. The youth in Egypt, Tunisia and Iran demand a life worth living and perspectives for the future. These are demands which cannot be ignored.

The Green Movement in Iran has made its share of strategic mistakes. It waited for political and religious occasions to take to the streets. Security forces therefore had adequate time to prepare themselves for the next wave of protests. The demonstrators in Egypt, on the other hand, called their own occasion with the "day of rage."

It is naïve to believe that the Egyptians and Tunisians with the expulsion of their rulers Hosni Mubarak and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali completed a revolution and achieved democratic circumstances. But they have moved a significant step in this direction. The opposition movement in Iran can and must learn from this. Only then will there also be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Author: Jamsheed Faroughi, Head of Deutsche Welle's Farsi service / sac
Editor: Rob Mudge

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