The Egyptian uprising, which began on January 25, is aimed at ridding the country of President Hosni Mubarak and his National Democratic Party, who have maintained de facto one-party rule under an ongoing state of emergency.
The regime was able to remain in power through the support of the West underpinned by substantial aid from the US, which was eager to ensure that Mubarak’s hard-line policies against Islamic militants were maintained.
Egypt was part of the protests unfolding in other parts of the Arab world including Yemen, Tunisia and Jordan.
In the case of Egypt their grievances include police brutality, the state of emergency laws, lack of free elections and free speech, corruption, high unemployment, food price inflation and low minimum wages.
Egyptians demand the end of Mubarak’s regime and a new government that respects the rights of freedom and justice.
In terms of the demands put forward by the protestors, the roots of the uprising appear to lie in a call for democracy and the introduction of freedoms enjoyed by people under that system of government.
Yet as the uprising grows and gathers momentum in Tahrir Square, Cairo, and elsewhere it is those who represent systems that are in stark contrast to what the protestors are demanding who would suggest that they are the inspiration for it.
In Iran, a country which, inter alia, uses live rounds on protestors who argue with the regime, allows very little say in which candidates can stand for election and orders the media not to report on the opposition. It is interesting to see that the wave of uprisings in Arab countries is being seen as a sign of an “Islamic awakening” inspired by the 1979 Iranian revolution.
The supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said at Muslim weekly prayers on Friday that: “Today’s events in North Africa, Egypt and Tunisia and some other countries have different meanings for us. This is what has always been talked about as the occurrence of Islamic awakening because of the Islamic revolution of the great Iranian nation and it is showing itself today.”
The great irony, which has escaped Khamenei, is that if regard is had to the list of demands of the Egyptian protestors, then an Iranian style revolution is exactly what they are resisting.
Everything from police brutality to clamp downs on press freedom has a home in Tehran.
Had Iranians been left to their own devices their protests were — if anything — much larger than Egypt’s. The problem was that unlike Egypt the regime turned the security forces on them.
In addition to Iran other Islamic militants took to the internet on Friday to call on Muslims to unite behind Egyptian protesters and not to “waste the chance” to topple President Hosni Mubarak and claim power in the North African nation.
Some extremist websites urged Muslims to rally after Friday prayers and to back the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, which is the largest opposition group in Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which is officially banned and calls for rule by Islamic law in Egypt, has joined the protesters in calling for Mubarak’s ousting.
If by Islamic law the model being suggested is along the lines of Afghanistan under the Taliban then the demands of the protestors and the proponents of the system are at exact opposite ends of the pole.
In truth there are Arab countries that are thriving under autocratic rulers and some that are failing under democracy.
The opposite is also of application.
In the case of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan wouldn’t it be marvellous if, for once, the people of those countries actually do get the chance to decide on their government without Western interference and extremists hijacking the process.
Each might want Islamic law but with a constitution that ensures certain freedoms are protected.
They might want something completely different.
What is clear is that they have risked their lives for the chance to have their say without outside interference.
It’s time to give them that chance and allow them to have what they want, NOT what people tell them they want.