Learn from our mistakes

Letter from an Iranian to the people of Egypt


Learn from our mistakes
by aynak

The world is watching the heroic uprising of the brave Egyptian people, and their just demand for political freedom, government accountability and a better living standard.

Over 32 years ago, Iranian people did the same against the oppressive regime of the then Shah of Iran, for the same reasons.

My dear Egyptian brothers and sisters,

When we look back in our own lives, sometimes there are situations we wish we handled differently, had we KNOWN more, or had we been wiser. Life of a nation is no different. So I am writing to you, to share our experience, in the hope, the people of Egypt can do better than people of Iran, in dealing with their dictator, and build a better Egypt.

32 years ago, as the emotions of our nation was focused on the immediate removal of the Shah, our mind was not looking forward as to what to replace that old bankrupt system with? Today, not only are Iranian people no closer to a more accountable government nor better living standards, our social freedom along with our political freedom has been taken away from us as well.

Egyptian brothers and sisters,

Today in Iran, we don't have basic political freedom to assemble, as the Islamic Regime of Iran, does not allow freedom of assembly. Today, the Islamic Regime of Iran, does not even allow a candidate that passed its filtering process, and according to their own statistics received over 13 million votes, to hold a simple rally. How much freedom do you think an Iranian have today? Today, we do not have political parties. Even political factions are not tolerated within the Islamic regime.

My dear Egyptian brothers and sisters,

In spite of Iran's vast natural resources, many in Iran live in poverty and those who ask for accountability, are persecuted. So to flee Iran, appears to be the main option. As a result, some of the best and brightest talents of Iran, lives outside Iran, contributing to the host country who sheltered them instead of their own!

Not only books, films, newspapers are routinely censored for not having the same view as the Islamic Regime, their authors are often imprisoned and in many cases even murdered for such attempts.

Under Islamic Regime of Iran today, we do not have freedom of speech, access to unfiltered internet, nor even can we watch news other than what they want us to see on satellite TV in the privacy of our home! For the past 32 years, the Iranian people have faced the threat of a Islamic Regime guard raiding their homes, for the crime of watching something other than appears on their TV's.

Today in Iran, our women are not allowed to wear Hejab if they so choose and not wear the Hejab if they don't. The women are beaten or arrested if they don't abide by Islamic Regime, Talebani version of Islamic code.

But our lessons:

-- Don't bring religion to government. We Iranian people unfortunately did, and the results are far worse than what we had. Fortunately, you do not have a powerful character like Khomanee who said one thing, before reaching power, and the opposite after. But still, avoid those who provide their strict religious belief as the solution, for complex problems that faces us today. Our problems today, require collective cooperation and rational thinking, and the freedom to do so. Do not let political-Islam to make you envy even these dark days of Mobark, 30 years later!

--Don't just focus on removal of that brutal, ignorant dictator Mobark, but also focus on visionary Egyptions that are NOT power hungry, focused on solving the issues, and are not hateful in their speeches.

--When the tyrant Mobarak finally agrees to step down, don't try to destroy your government and start from zero. That would only take you back another 30 years like it has done so for Iran. Every system, has bad but also very good individual that serves it.

--Don't execute or torture anyone, even those who tortured you or executed your loved ones. That's the only way to insure, execution and torture will be eradicated.

--Destruction of headquarters of Mobarks party is valid reaction to his despotic rule, but do not destroy banks, theaters. Those all belong to Egypt not Mobark.

--When you are rewriting you constitution, do not trust closed door sessions. Read every page of the documents and understand their ramifications. It is better to take the time to come up with a great document, than to hurry this process and have to redo it again in 30 years!

--Here's one we should have chanted from day 1 and we did not, Iran for all Iranian. Say, Egypt for all Egyptians! Moslem or Christian, northerner or southerners. Be aware of anyone who tries to do otherwise.

The whole world is watching and we hope you set a better example than our revolution did. We hope we can learn from you. A powerful, democratic Egypt is good for the region. Egypt is now in a unique position to be great both for her own people but also a good example for the region.


more from aynak

there will never be an Islamic republic in any Arab counrty .

by SamSamIIII on


Period. Rest assured, the fundamental differences between ommatized Irani Ajams of 79 vs authentic contemporary Arabs are;

1- Islam for the Arab is her heritage & national identity, practiced  genuinely and freely in their own tongue in every day life in the open & without inhibitions or prohibitions. It is an "Organic" part of an Arab. Thus to an Arab the idea of an Islamic republic is not only irrelevant but stupid since they already have the islamic part at grass roots.

2- Unlike  the Arab case , fundamental shariaa for Ajamo Irani in 79 was an exotic entity of akh tofan malakhan & a gullible point of curiosity which was only practiced superficialy and glamorized by sonnatie ommatie elders and fairy tales of beautician shaikhs such as Hafiz , Saadi , Molana and other ommatie consmeticians . Thus Iranians found it relevant to try the exotic yet mysteriously tempting fruit of political Islam just by reading the cover.

Hence, the Arab shall never go for an Islamic Republic but instead a Republic running on top of an already "built in & organic" Islamic state.




Path of Kiaan Resurrection of True Iran Hoisting Drafshe Kaviaan //iranianidentity.blogspot.com //www.youtube.com/user/samsamsia


Hillary Clinton:"

by vildemose on

"The U.S. wants to see "real democracy" emerge in Egypt, Clinton said, "not a democracy for six months or a year and then evolving into essentiall­y a military dictatorsh­ip or a so-called democracy that then leads to what we saw in Iran."


Brilliant and heartfelt advice

by Fair on

Aynak Jan.  Bravo.  I can only hope that Egyptians don't make the same mistakes we made, and maybe this time these guys get it right to some extent.  Hopefully, everybody - the people, the government, the US and other international players have learned much over the last 32 years.  Otherwise history will merely repeat itself.

Red Wine


by Red Wine on

Very dear vildemose ...

I'm glad to see you.thank you for your reply but...

In this article, I only see some general information to people who know nothing about Iran and Egypt.

 I speak of a reality that is not visible in Media systems! I speak of a suffering people a lot and now only thinks of changing the regime on!

 In Egypt there are many tribes that have their rules and just respect the rules of their ancestors and live without legal boundaries but feel they are in Egypt! they are the real mosulmanes much respecting religion Islam and do not meddle in politics!

 I see many positive things about it and I do not think that power falls into the hands of the evil Islamists insist .. the problem of Egypt is cheaper, is more social, is more racial. cultural issues, I say that because conozcoa this country very closely as other countries in northern Africa, I worked there,i lived there, i speak Arabic, French and diffrent dialects of the Sahara ... be sure i know what i am talking about!

 We have to wait a little more ... for now only matters of freedom and nothing else.

Anahid Hojjati

thanks Vildemose. Any way, it is great analysis.

by Anahid Hojjati on

dear Vildemoe, thanks for your explanation, and thanks for including it here. Otherwise, I would not have read it since daily Kos is not one of the sites I check.  I did use to check it during last presidential election in US but normally I don't. So it is good that you included it here.


Anahid aziz: this is not my

by vildemose on

Anahid aziz: this is not my comment. It's diary from dailykos. The link is at the bottom.

Anahid Hojjati

Vildemose, you should blog your last comment

by Anahid Hojjati on

Vildemose, your last comment is great, very informative and heartwarming too, at least for me. You should blog it. As we say, "heife".  Also doesn' t this site have a writing where it says:"Do not post articles as comments." I think they must be talking about comments like this comment of yours. Seriously, please think about blogging your comment.


Red wine is spot

by vildemose on

Red wine is spot on.


The Iranian Shi'i ulama (ulama are religious scholars a.k.a. mullahs a.k.a clergy) already had an organizational structure in place that was independent of the state. They mobilized that organizational structure to take power in Iran once the government was destabilized. These religious scholars were the main spiritual and legal authorities for the vast majority of practicing Iranian Muslims. Remember, Khomeini was an Ayatollah--that is one of the highest titles given to Shi'i scholars, and this is something completely outside of politics.

The situation in Egypt is very different. Religious scholarly authorities in Sunni Islam are not organized hierarchically the way they are for Shi'is. The closest thing to such an organized hierarchy in Egypt is the religious schools, the most important being al-Azhar University in Cairo. Al-Azhar has always been close to the Egyptian government. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB for short) in Egypt does have a large network of charitable organizations like the Shi'i ulama did in Iran. Many poor people might take advantage of their services, like low-cost health-care and job training, but they are essentially a political movement. They don't have spiritual authority in the eyes of the whole population of practicing believers the way the Iranian ulama did (and do).

Also, the revolution of 1979 was to be Islamic pretty much in name only for many people. Islam was a symbol of national identity that Iranian intellectuals appealed to. But they didn't actually want rule by Shi'i clergy, and in fact they didn't think that Shi'i clergy would actually want to rule, or be capable of ruling for more than a very short time. The outcome of Iran 1979 changed people's perceptions of anything anybody tries to pass off as "islamic government", and now Arab political dissidents are very wary to distance themselves from islamist movements like the MB.""


Iranian ulama: spiritual authority + widespread independent organizational structure

Muslim Brotherhood: widespread independent organizational structure, no spiritual authority

Egyptian ulama: spiritual authority, but no independent organizational structure

The way the islamists took over in Iran was that they had an entire shadow state made up of different religious charitable organizations waiting in the wings when the national government faltered. These religious organizations were basically charities that provided different services to the poor, and attracted lots of volunteer help from Iranian university students and others.

The other advantage that the Iranian ulama enjoyed was that they were the main spiritual authority for Iranian Muslims. Even if you had no interest in "islamic politics" (as most people didn't--it was kind of a hare-brained, extremely untested idea at the time), if you were a practicing Shi'i Muslim, you, or whatever Shi'i scholar you consulted for spiritual advice, probably had tremendous respect for the scholarly authority of people like Ayatollah Khomeini. Ayatollah was one of the highest titles a Shi'i scholar could be given, and that scholarly/spiritual authority was something Khomeini had that was completely apart from politics--a bit like being a Roman Catholic Archbishop.

Also, unlike in Turkey and Egypt, the Iranian religious establishment had always been mostly independent of the state. It never (in 200+ years) relied on the state for funding or recognitionEgypt, the most prominent religious institution is al-Azhar, which is a really massive university that teaches, in addition to Islamic religious sciences, standard university fare like medicine, economics, and engineering. Al-Azhar's religious scholars have tremendous standing among Sunni Muslims worldwide, even though Sunni Muslims don't have the sort of hierarchy of religious scholars that Shi'is have. But in any event, it has had close ties to the government for decades at least. In fact, throughout the history of the Ottoman Empire, Muslim clergy were (at least in theory) one of many paid government jobs, so for that reason they have always tended to toe the government line. al-Azhar's religious scholars have spoken out against terrorism, and more recently against female genital cutting.

As for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB for short), the MB is a political organization, nobody there is a spiritual authority of the stature of Khomeini or the scholars at al-Azhar. They do have a very large network of charities, providing things like affordable health care (ha!) and job training to the poor in Egypt. They are probably quite capable of mobilizing people. But from what I understand (and I admit here that while my sources are very very good, they are not strictly speaking scientific), most Egyptians don't really like them very much, and certainly wouldn't want them in charge. Egyptians, in short, will not get behind them the way Iranians got behind Khomeini in the late 70s/early 80s.

This is where the other big difference with Iran comes in. Let's go back in time to 1977. At that time, people who fancied themselves "educated" and "modern" generally believed that Islamic clergy were inherently "quietist", meaning they respected authority too much and were too interested in non-worldly matters to ever be an effective political force. They were not "modern" and "dynamic" and all that mumbojumbo. To put it less politely, they were widely held to be medieval idiots whose main aspiration in life was to sit around in a seminary debating how many angels could stand on the head of a pin. Their backward, conservative ways made them incapable of adopting modern methods of bureaucratic and political organization. The talking heads and an earlier generation of academics (a.k.a. "Orientalists") all had their explanations as to why Muslim religious scholars would never be a serious political force, but basically they all came down to some variant on religion is dumb and science is Western.

Anyway, people thought that Muslim religious scholars were basically harmless. Part of the reason the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was so memorable is that it overturned what a lot of people thought they knew about Islam, and religion and modernity in general. There were whole theories about modernization and development that scholars had built their careers around that Iran 1979 chewed up and shat out. I'm told some people even gave up scholarship and turned to the bottle. That's why we're still talking about Iran today.

So, was 1979 an Islamic revolution from the beginning? The reason so many Iranian intellectuals at the time talked about Islam, and why many Iranians were willing to get behind Khomeini as a revolutionary leader, was that he represented a kind of Iranian cultural authenticity. Marxism and other revolutionary ideologies were totally alien to most Iranians. The idea of a "great Iranian civilization" inaugurated by Cyrus and Darius was pretty much a modern contrivance. Not that there isn't or wasn't such a thing (and it does go back even before Cyrus), but this "great Iranian civilization" was something that only resonated with educated people. For most Iranians, their folk heroes were Shi'i martyrs like Hussein, who represented (to them--not to Sunnis) a painful memory of the early Muslim community's collective failure to stand up for what was right. Their folk heroes were not warlords from ancient epic poetry who were famous for stuff like shooting an arrow that pinned a deer's foreleg to its ear, in order to (...what else?) impress a woman. Shi'i Islam was a mythic heritage that all Iranians shared, no matter how uneducated or apolitical they were, so Iranian intellectuals tried to speak in religious language to connect with the people, even though they themselves might not have been religious at all, or had very little regard for religious leaders. A good example of this is two figures later lionized by the Islamic revolution--Ali Shariati and Jalal Al-e Ahmad. Al-e Ahmad wrote a memoir of his pilgrimage to Mecca, and it's hardly pious--frankly, it's pretty awful and insulting. But his motive was to connect to this experience of pilgrimage, which he felt alienated from, but that was meaningful to so many Iranians. So that's where a lot of Iranians were at in the late 70s, and why they talked about Islam so much.

So the "Islamic revolution" many Iranians supported was almost more like an "Islam-flavored" revolution. That was the most they thought they would ever get, because everybody thought that Muslim clergy were "quietist" and would return to the seminaries as soon as they were faced with any actual responsibilities of governance.

Obviously, nobody believes that anymore--not only were the Iranian ulama ruthless enough to hold onto power (the Iran-Iraq War being a shameful display of how far they would go to do so), they were even prepared to make serious compromises, like encouraging birth control (although, note that in Islam, abortion was generally considered permissible, and birth control was widely used--a very different situation from, say, the Catholic Church; not as big a compromise as it might seem from a US PoV) and even if Egyptians are on the whole culturally more conservative than Iranians were back then, it would be a lot harder for the Iranian Revolution of 1979 to be repeated in Egypt today. There were even tweets going out on Jan 25 saying something like "Muslim Brotherhood, with all due respect, stay out of this." (via Juan Cole, like, today or yesterday or something)

A quick and tardy disclaimer: I'm writing this in a hurry, for which reason I don't have a whole lot of links on the MB and al-Azhar in Egypt--I'm mostly going by what's in my head. I'm pretty confident on my Iranian history but less so on the contemporary Arab situation. There may be nuances or details I missed. I welcome suggestions, corrections, and clarifications in the comments.

further reading:
Street Politics: poor people's movements in Iran by Asef Bayat
The Making of Iran's Islamic Revolution: from monarchy to republic by Mohsen Milani ""



excellent - thanks

by MM on

I hope that you published your piece in an Egyptian-read blog as well.

Red Wine


by Red Wine on

You guys are very wrong and I think it is not your fault for thinking so,i blame the american media  who has given you a bad picture about the situation of Egypt!

 For giving a solid opinion, you need clear/new/correct information, knowledge of languages (English does not work there!) and get to know about the people of Egypt.

 Egypt has so much problem at this time and any Islamist group has not dared to react to what will happen in the political future of Egypt!

 Akhavan's party not have a structure like Hezbollah or Hamas,or hasn't a strong leader and  has not full power in many parts of Egypt.(specially in other cities !).

 I repeat again that the problem now is that because all parties and groups are united and although Egypt has always been an Islamic country, they will not tolerate a radical Islamic government.

 Thank you for your attention.


A very good article Aynak, thank you.

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

Also some very good comments. Red wine's in particular highlighting the social and economic issues affecting Egyptians..

This is what I think: So long as there is extreme poverty and social injustice (note i did not even mention dictatorship)  there will be potential for a violent revolution. It just takes an spark to ignite the flames of revolution.Examples are of course Iran in 1979 and Egypt in 2011.  Shah and Mobarak's dictatorships have a lot in common. they both seem to have suppressed all forms of "secular opposition", hence creating a vaccume which has been filled with the well established (through mosques and people's religious beliefs) islamist extremist gangs. In the abscence of any secular Revolutionary organisation to lead the masses towards a secular democracy, we now see the "potential of" islamist gangs with fake revolutionary agendas taking leadership of the revolution, with the ultimate objective of destroying it, just as we saw in Iran 1979.

Now we probably have to wait for another 30 years to learn about the details of secret behind the door negotiations between Mossad-CIA and Muslim brotherhood gang leaders, as we had to in case of CIA-Khomeini.


"Personal business must yield to collective interest."

Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime

Despite Aynak doodee's 20/20 hindsight advice, the criminal

by Everybody Loves Somebody ... on

Islamists will take over in Egypt.

According to the news coming out, armed gangs of criminals have already freed Muslim militants from prison just like when criminals like Rafsanjani, Khamenie, et al were freed from prison 32 years ego.

Americans and the other Westerners have already started evacuating from Egypt just like they evacuated from Iran 32 years ago.

Lines of Islamists praying before the army on the streets of Ciro just like in Iran trying to soften up some soldiers to join them.

Every indication of this sudden eruption in Egypt looks, feels, and smells like the stench of the Islamic Revolution (An-Gholab) of 1979 in Iran.

I hope the Egyptian Army does not trust anybody and does not disarm and put down subversives and criminals something the Iranian Army should have done in 1979!

Now, that brings me to the crux of the matter, Israel! I hope Israelis will double up their nuclear stockpile to be able to protect themselves against the threat coming from the Islamic Brotherhood of Egypt and Iran. And, we know Israel will use it! That's what gives me comfort and solace!



by Raoul1955 on

Back then, when Iranians replaced a Western secular regime with a 'democratic' islamic regime we had a democrat in the White House. 
Today, while the muslim brotherhood in Egypt is pushing its agenda of replacing a secular pro-Western regime with an islamic one, we also have a democrat in the White House.  One more concerning issue is that this one is very much pro-islam, while the other was a Christian!

Red Wine


by Red Wine on

با سلام ...

لازم میدانم یک نکته را به خدمت دوستان عزیز و معظم یاد آوری کنم !

مملکت عزیز و گرامی‌ مصر از بطن و از تمام..یک مملکت اسلامی است ! اسم دیگر شهر زیبای قاهره میدانید چیست ؟ بدان جا شهر هزار مناره مینامند ! تقریبا برای هر ۲ محله یک تا ۳ مسجد وجود دارند و تمامی مساجد همیشه شلوغ از نماز گذاران است و دعا و نیایش و غیره..!

در محلاتی که مسجد بر خیابان است،محال است که شما یک کاباره در آنجا پیدا کنید ! قهوه خانه‌ها به نحوی ساخته شده اند که نوای زیبای موسیقی‌ عربی‌ / مصری از آنجا به بیرون نمی‌رود،در بسیاری از محلات توریستهای غربی جرات رفت و آمد ندارند و یک توریست معمولی‌ تنها کمتر از ۱۰% شهر را می‌بیند و اگر مسلمان باشد...اندکی‌ بیشتر !

عرض من چیست ؟ تنها میخواهم بگویم که مصریان تا به حال صحبتی‌ از مسائل مذهبی‌ در خواسته‌هایشان نکرده اند این دلشوره‌هایی‌ که بنده میبینم... بی‌ مورد هستند.

الان صحبت یک سری مسائل ساده هست ، اول آنکه اینان که مردمانی نجیب هستند،حق و حقوق مساوی میخواهند،یعنی‌ اینکه برنامه مالیاتی کشور تنظیم شود،مسائل زمینداری و کشاورزی یکسان بین تمامی مصریان رفتار شود، تبعیض نژادی از میان برود (آیا میدانستید که در قرن ۲۱ هنوز برده داری وجود دارد ؟ و الله که به چشم خودم صحنه‌ها دیدم که قادر به نگاشتن آن نیستم !)، تکلیف پول توریسم مشخص شود،تکلیف مرز نشینان.. تا به حد السودان و فی‌ حد ال تسمع مشخص شود، و چند مورد دیگر !

فعلا بیمورد است که شور یک دولت مذهبی‌ را بزنیم،در حال حاضر اینان احتیاج به هوای تازه دارند و آزادی کامل مطبوعات،بازگشت بیش از ۱۵،۰۰۰ تبعیدی به کشور، آزادی زندانیان سیاسی،حتی آنانیکه خون ریختند (منظور افرادی هستند که به عنوان مثال مسیحی‌ کشته اند و یا خارجی‌!) و مطلب مهم این است که تکلیف مسائل مربوط به کانال سوئز نیز مشخص شود که این مملکت پول سرشاری از این حق به خود می‌گیرد و اما چه حاصل که چیزی به خلق الله نمیرسد !

به امید پیروزی حق با باطل .

از بلاگ شما متشکریم.



This was about as

by vildemose on

This was about as predictabl­e as the Nile flooding..­.

No Longer Caring About Democracy, Bolton Disparages Egypt Protests And Defends Mubarak


Anahid Hojjati

Thanks for great advice

by Anahid Hojjati on

It is always great to write up lessons learned. US corporations; at least some, do this when an important product is released. Then the lessons are shared with those responsible for design of new product. Now we have to make sure some Egyptians actually get to read this.


excellent articlal, excellent advise

by Bavafa on

My best wishes to all Egyptian in their struggle for freedom and democracy and hope and wish for the entire Middle East nations, specially Iranians to follow the footstep of these brave and bring about a more democratic, free and independent regime to their home lands.



Excellent write

by vildemose on

Excellent write up.

Nobelist in chemistry, Dr. Ahmed Zewail of the California Institute of Technology, is an Egyptian-American who has sometimes been mentioned as a candidate for president. He has served as a science envoy to the Arab world of President Obama.

In an interview on Aljazeera Arabic, Zewail called for fundamental change in Egypt, not just cosmetic alterations. He gave as the causes for the current uprising:

1. Power games among the elite, competition over the succession to President Hosni Mubarak, lack of transparency and phony elections.

2. The economic situation: the masses of the poor have been left behind, the situation of the middle class has actually gone backward, while a small elite at the top benefits from what economic progress there is– because of a marriage of power and capital.

3. Corruption and constant demands for bribes by officials.

4. Education: The deterioration of the education system, which is central to every Egyptian household’s hopes of progress, to a state that does not in any way reflect Egypt’s standing in the world.



Those things apply to the IRI as well.

Ari Siletz

Heartfelt advice!

by Ari Siletz on


Darius Kadivar

Good Article !

by Darius Kadivar on

No irony intended on my part even if I don't share all of your assessments, I do share your conclusions in this particular article.