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Editorial: The Politics of Protest – Why Iran is Different

The Western media coverage of protests around the world has taken an interesting turn in the last few months.

When one million Egyptians protested for 17 or more days in the Egyptian capital, the world’s media launched into a frenzy of talk about democracy, freedom and a wave of popular protest. A peaceful uprising involving prayer and amicable relations with the security forces succeeded in ending the 30 year rule of Hosni Mubarak.

However, the media coverage culminated with a line drawn from Tunisia to Egypt to Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, Djibouti and beyond which told an unlikely narrative of democracy sweeping through the world like an unstoppable wave.

When grainy footage of various protests in Iran surfaced today, the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton hailed the “right to protest” of the nameless figures. There are two issues here. Firstly, the protests shown occurring in Iran do not mirror the protests which took place in Egypt in character or in volume. Secondly, the comment from the US Secretary of State exposes a double standard in the reaction to protests around the world.

A voice over from the BBC says “they are copying the type of protests they have seen in Egypt”. But are they? One might understand a certain amount of synergy within the Arab world, especially with the availability of pan-Arab media outlets such as Al-Jazeera, but as a Persian country with a language, culture and history distinct from the Arab world, one might not expect an immediate parallel to be drawn by opposition or rebel leaders in Iran.

Where is the restraint and respect for sovereignty which was expressed by world leaders during the Egyptian protests? Fearful of offending Saudi Arabia, leaders around the world spoke of “not interfering” in the political process or sovereignty of Egypt. However, as soon as a trickle of protest arose in Iran, Western governments have leapt on the opportunity to criticise the government of the Islamic Republic.

It would seem that a positive trend in democracy is being leveraged for the foreign policy aims of a few Western powers.

About Linda Scott

Linda Scott
Linda Scott is Editor in Chief, and a founder of, The Global Herald.

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  1. Big difference between Iran and Egypt is this: the government of Egypt was a headed by a stereotypical foreign-backed tinpot dictator who was hated by his own people, whereas the government of iran — like it or not — still has the support of the vast majority of the people who by all accounts did in fact vote for Ahmadinejad in 2009 too.

    • Correct regarding the foreign backed dictator.

      Not so in relation to the Iranian regime being “on all accounts” supported by the majority or people in Iran.

      Even if what you say is true, which it is not, this does not mean that the majority can trample on the rights of the minority or repress political opposition.

  2. This is an embarrassingly simple and misleading analysis Linda, and appears to be nothing but an attempt at pointing out an obvious and well known fact that the American government has an interest in the region and that its policies are based on this rather than “good intentions”. It does this by completely misrepresenting the nature of the protests which are occurring in Iran.

    The current protests in Iran can only be seen in the context of the protests of 2009 and 1999. In both cases the protests were essentially peaceful, but were met with violence. Naturally, and as it happened in Egypt, once the protesters were met with violence, in some occasions they did fight back, sometimes for self defense and often out of anger.

    Please do not sacrifice the truth (and the struggle and sacrifices of these people in Iran) for the sake of your agenda.

  3. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. The US is uses any excuse to attack Iran. Last Friday, there were tens of *millions* of Iranians celebrating the victory of our revolution and hardly a peep from Western media. Yesterday, a few hundred people, if that, burn garbage and the US supports them! What hypocrisy!

  4. Where was America’s yearning for democracy during the 30-year reign of Mubarak? What was that on-again off-again support for Mubarak during the 18 days preceding his downfall all about? And where does Washington stand regarding that bastion of Middle East freedom, Saudi Arabia? Is Hillary Clinton’s verbal attacks against Iran a sign that the U.S. policy of creating a safe playground for Israel in the region has come to a screeching halt?

  5. I am not quite sure what you are getting at — but just to let you know – the 14 Th Feb. march demonstrations in Iran took place at least in 6 of the bigist Iranian cities by many thousands of people – There are planty of live videos all over the place to prove that — and two people were shot to death as of this morning . 15 the Feb. I understand that the demonstrations again have started today.
    Now wherther the western media or the Western powers dicid to cover this or not – the brave Iranian people are confronting the IRI thugs with bear hands and are paying with thier blood to gain their freedom and degnity.

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