February 10, 2011 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 664

In Advance of Iran's Revolution Day, Iranian Regime Circles, Protest Movement Comment On Egypt's Uprising in the Mirror of the Iranian Revolution

February 10, 2011 | By A. Savyon and Yossi Mansharof*
Iran, Egypt | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 664


On the eve of celebrations marking the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran (February 1-11), regime heads and spokesmen praised the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and claimed that they were both inspired by and constitute a direct continuation of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. According to them, such popular Islamic revolutions are destined to take place in the near future across the Arab world, reflecting the emergence of Islamic rule in the region in the face of the defeat of the West, led by the U.S., and of Israel.

Along with declarations celebrating Islam's victory over the American idolatry, the regime made great efforts, with a public display of force, to preempt any possible attempts at protests on the occasion. It was reported, inter alia, that there was a significant increase in executions of citizens (including one woman, an Iranian with Dutch citizenship) who had been detained since the 2009 protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government, along with increased oversight of anti-regime activity online.[1]

In contrast, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leaders of the Green Movement (i.e., the protest movement), took an opposite view of the current Middle East events, implying that the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings would have ramifications for Iranian civil society. They claimed that the popular protests were anti-dictatorship, whether secular or Islamic, and that the fate of the dictatorial Iranian regime would be the same as the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes.

The protest movement leaders sought approval from the regime to hold a February 14 march in support of the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Also, Mousavi's website, Kaleme, published an article calling on the protest movement to organize, and to include representation from various sectors of society – in order to successfully act against the regime, in imitation of the successful Tunisian uprising.

Iranian Supreme Leader's Website: The Unrest in Egypt is an Islamic Awakening Inspired by Iran's Revolution

The website of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei noted on January 31, 2011 that even in a meeting last year in Tehran with the leaders of Palestinian groups, Khamenei had predicted the rise of an Islamic Middle East, when he said, "There is no doubt that, according to God's dictates, a new Middle East will arise, and it will be Islamic."[2]

In the run-up to the Iranian Revolution Day celebrations, Khamenei devoted his February 2 Friday sermon to the events in Tunisia and Egypt, calling them "a sign of the awakening of Islam, inspired by the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran" against the regimes of the U.S. and Israel. He hinted that the protests would spread from Egypt to other countries, and said that the events there, which he called an "earthquake," had far-reaching ramifications for the Middle East.[3] Addressing the Arab countries in Arabic, he said: "On behalf of the Iranian people and the revolutionary Iranian government, I salute the Egyptian and Tunisian peoples, asking God to grant them a complete victory."[4]

Other regime spokesmen, including Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) deputy commander Hossein Salami, and others, reiterated the thesis that the popular uprisings were occurring against the backdrop of an Islamic awakening. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, for example, condemned the West's use of the word "riots," and said that the protesters were a great popular movement that stemmed from an Islamic awakening and was striving for independence and for severing its identity with the superpowers. He added that the West's attempt to divert these revolutions from their paths would fail, and suggested that these countries' officials heed their peoples' demands. He also said that the establishment of popular regimes in these countries would have a significant impact on the countries' relations with Iran.[5]

Friday Preacher in Qom: The Egyptian and Tunisian Nations are Suffering From Lack of a Leader; Khamenei is Leader of All Muslims

In a speech to security forces in Qom, Friday preacher Mohammad Saeedi promoted Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to the rank of Imam – a rank that the Shi'a reserves for the offspring of Ali and the Prophet Muhammad's daughter Fatima, who alone bear the divine spark. This was the rank granted by the people to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini upon his return to Iran, which he never publicly denied.

Saeedi said, "The Egyptian and Tunisian nation suffers from lack of a strong leader, [but] they must know that the Imam Khamenei is the leader of all Muslims worldwide, and all Muslims must obey him."[6]

Kayhan: Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain have Fallen to Islam's Faithful

On February 3, 2011, the front page of the daily Kayhan, which is close to Khamenei, declared, "Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Algeria, and Bahrain Have Fallen to the Islamists; Khomeini Emerges in Arab Middle East."[7]

In that day's editorial, the paper claimed that all the Islamic and revolutionary movements in the past 30 years were inspired by "Imam Khomeini's Iran." The paper enumerated the ramifications of the Egyptian revolution feared most by the West: the establishment of a religious regime or of a regime supported by Al-Azhar, which influences half the Muslim world; the transfer of Egypt's strategic assets, such as the Suez Canal, from the West to the resistance bloc; and closer Egypt-Iran relations, due to the Egyptian people's religious and political closeness to Iran.

The paper added that the Egyptian revolution was religious in nature, not due to economic difficulties, and that it was about Egypt's identity – that is, the Egyptian people's return to its Islamic roots, from which it has been alienated in the 40 years since Sadat became president. It added that the uprising "doubtless came due to the influence of Khomeini and Khamenei, more than any other figure."[8]

Jomhouri-ye Eslami: The Other Arab Regimes are About to Fall

The Jomhouri-ye Eslami daily stated that like Tunisia and Egypt, the rest of the Arab regimes are also doomed to fall, because their peoples will not settle for anything less. The paper explained that what these regimes had in common was an anti-Islamic policy, implemented on orders of the U.S., which entailed putting the struggle against Islam at the top of their agenda.

It added that the policy of Islamophobia led by U.S. President Barack Obama in the region against Iran had reaped the opposite of the desired results, and the peoples had understood that the path to their salvation lay in imitating the aspiration for independence from the superpowers, demonstrated by Iran in the Islamic Revolution.[9]

Qodsna: The Uprisings are Islam's Struggle Against the Idols of Heresy

Mehdi Shakibaei, editor of the Qodsna website, presented the uprisings in the Middle East as part of the monotheistic Islamic struggle against the forces of evil, i.e. the heretic idols of the West. In an article marking Revolution Day, he stated that the will of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolutionary regime in Iran, had been realized by the uprising in the Arab world, and that the human essence embodied in Islam and in the Muslims is triumphing over the heretic idols and idol-worshippers, headed by the U.S.: "Now, on the 32nd anniversary… of the historic return of Imam Khomeini, the great founder of the Islamic Revolution, to the beloved homeland, the world is witnessing the realization of his foreign policy.

"On this auspicious anniversary, the Middle East is witnessing the revival of the human essence, [which is coming out] against the idol-worshippers that rule the Arab nations, and against the rulers of the Great Idol – the U.S…

"Today, the uprising of the Arab nations in the Middle East is a positive answer to the divine call of the Imam [Khomeini], whose legacy states that the path to the salvation of the Muslim nations lies in ridding themselves of the proxy rulers, and calls on all Muslims to take their fate into their own hands by means of uprisings in their countries against the proxy regimes..."[10]

Kayhan: Cairo – The Main Gateway to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv

On February 6, Kayhan focused on the role of new Egypt against Israel, and the contribution it would make to Israel's collapse now that it had joined the Iran-led resistance axis. The paper said that the revolution in Egypt, which it called the "main gateway" to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, would shorten the path to the liberation of Jerusalem to a mere two footsteps. The Egyptian revolution, it added, confirmed "the divine statements" of Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who said that Israel's strength is like "a spider's web, that is, extremely weak." Stating that in the wake of its revolution, Egypt would no longer be Iran's resolute enemy, it added that Egypt would also free itself from the American-Israeli domination, and that Egypt's aid the resistance bloc against Israel would be even more significant than Turkey's aid via the Mavi Marmara.

Kayhan hinted that missiles would now land on Israel not only from Lebanon and Gaza but also from Cairo: "In the summer of 2006, when Hizbullah shelled Israel with missile after missile, the media headlines read: "Tel Aviv: 120 km" and then "Tel Aviv: 90 km." Two years later, Hamas became Tel Aviv's nightmare, and now, this countdown [to an attack on Israel] has begun in Cairo, the main gateway to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv."[11]

Also, the Mashregh website published, on January 31, a report, accompanied by photos, claiming a great similarity between the revolution in Egypt and the Islamic Revolution in Iran (see Appendix, below).

Protest Movement Leaders: The Fate of Dictatorships Is Perdition – Either Sooner or Later

At a February 1 meeting with their spiritual leader Ayatollah Bayat Zanjani, the leaders of the Iranian protest movement, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, hinted that the dictatorial regime in Iran will end like other dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, i.e. like Tunisia and Egypt. They called on the regime to learn the lesson of the events in those countries and to respond to the demands of the people, because the fate of all dictatorships is perdition, either sooner or later.

Karroubi and Mousavi and Ayatollah Zanjani condemned the Iranian regime's execution of 300 citizens in the past year, and the haste with which the executions had been carried out – without full legal process and without notifying the families of the accused. They added that this policy, aimed at sowing fear among the public, would harm the regime and isolate it internationally (see YouTube clip of meeting,[12]

On February 5, 2011, Mousavi and Karroubi announced that they had asked the government for a permit to hold a demonstration in Tehran on February 14, three days after the official Revolution Day, to show solidarity with the popular anti-dictatorial movements in the region.[13]

Ardeshir Amir Arjoman, advisor to Mousavi, said that the Pharaonic dictatorship in Iran was worse than the dictatorship in Egypt and Tunisia, because it used religion for its own purposes. Nevertheless, he asked the regime to allow protest movement supporters to hold nonviolent demonstrations, in order to see which had greater public support: the protest movement or the regime. He explained that the protest movement had chosen the date February 14 to differentiate this event from Iran's Revolution Day, on February 11. He added, referring to the Iranian regime, that anyone who supported the peoples in Tunisia and Egypt had to approve a march in solidarity with them on February 14 – if only to prove the claim that the Green Movement no longer existed in Iran.[14]

In a communiqué addressed to "the fighting women of Egypt and Tunisia," Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, stated that the women of Iran were standing alongside them in their struggle against tyranny, and expressed hope that all nations oppressed by dictatorial regimes would soon realize their aspirations for freedom and democracy.[15]

In a communiqué published in advance of Revolution Day, the Qom Association of Lecturers and Researchers, which supports the protest movement, called on the regime to learn the lesson of the revolutions taking place today in the Arab world, according to which "the steadfastness of the people against the tyrants would beyond a doubt triumph in the end." The association added that a regime based on oppression, lawbreaking, and disregard of human rights would collapse, because according to divine decree, the oppressor does not remain forever.[16]

The Kaleme website, which is identified with Mir Hossein Mousavi, stated that the call by the Iranian Foreign Ministry to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to refrain from violence against the demonstrators and to comply with the demands of the people was hypocritical, because during the riots following the elections in Iran in 2009, the regime killed at least 100 demonstrators and was still imprisoning hundreds.[17]

Kaleme Website Calls on Green Movement to Organize against Regime – As a Lesson in Successful Popular Struggle

An article titled "A Lesson from the Tunisian Revolution for the Greens," posted on the Kaleme website, which is identified with protest movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, called on the Green Movement to reorganize and to strengthen its ties with the various sectors in Iran, and to strengthen ties between the lower class and the middle class in order to establish a coalition with a broad social base that will lead to a successful popular protest, as happened in Tunisia. In addition, the article called on the movement to employ cadres and institutions as liaison personnel for conveying its messages to the various sectors. In this way, it said, the media bans imposed by the regime to obstruct the movement's activity can be circumvented.

The following are highlights from the article:

"As Iranian commentators have indicated, the lower class's participation in the Jasmine Revolution [in Tunisia] and the protests' beginning at the margins and in the streets and then, in the next phase, spreading to the center and the middle class – such as the lawyers and the students – are one of the ways in which the Tunisian revolution differs from the Green Movement in Iran. Apparently, the Green Movement needs to make greater efforts than ever, and must move to include the menial laborers, the working class, and the teachers, and to attract them.

"One way to accomplish this goal to give increased attention to the values of social justice, and to emphasize the demands of the lower class in the Green Movement's discourse... The struggle against the tyrannical regime that is in no way ready to show flexibility to its opponents requires the establishment of a coalition that includes many social classes and sectors...

"In order to establish such a coalition, several practical steps need to be taken. In the first stage, it is important to have messages with social justice content, and it is [equally] important to deliver [these messages] to the target groups. A message that doesn't reach its audience does no good. [But] the delivery of these messages in the current circumstances, when the Green Movement is under pressure and suppressed, and media restrictions are imposed on it, requires practical effort on its part...

"In order to carry out activities of this kind, the Green Movement needs liaison officers. Liaison officers are people who can establish a relationship between two groups, and convey between them their messages and their demands. Studies on the issue of putting together coalitions in social movements show that the role of these liaison officers is just as important as is ideological similarity between the coalition's central groups...

"Another thing that might be helpful in connecting the lower class with the middle class is activities that demonstrate the rapprochement between the two classes. This can be seen in the activity of some Islamic groups in the region. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, runs an extensive network of charity institutions in various regions in Egypt. In effect, the Muslim Brotherhood's success is not only in ideology, and creating and conveying messages. The Muslim Brotherhood was successful in creating a well-grounded relationship with the lower classes in Egypt using their networks of charity institutions.

"Obviously, such activities on the part of the opposition circles in Iran will face specific challenges. The first of these is the government's populist pronouncements. Any pronouncement in Iran that seeks to attract the attention of the lower class must be met with a serious counter-statement.

"Second, the Iranian government has [welfare] institutions like the Behezisti [state welfare organization] and the [Imam Khomeini] Relief Foundation, and even the Basij conducts energetic relief activity.

"These two things [i.e., the regimes populist statements and welfare institutions] make conducting such activity in Iran difficult, but not impossible. [Green] Movement activists can undoubtedly define their activities in accordance with the situation in Iran, and carry them out in stages."[18]

Ebtekar: We Must Learn from the Dialogue between the Regime and the Opposition in Egypt

On the other hand, the moderate-conservative daily Ebtekar called on conservatives and the protest movement to learn from the negotiations between opposition groups and the regime in Egypt, urging them to conduct a dialogue in order to find a way for both sides to function within the framework of the Iranian regime. It also warned that "removing the reformists from the political arena in the country will lead to a situation in which the conservatives in the country will need them like they need air to breathe."[19]


The Mashregh website posted a series of photos showing the similarities between the uprising in Egypt and the Islamic Revolution in Iran.[20]

*A. Savyon is Director of the Iranian Media Project; Y. Mansharof is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1] The website of the Iranian student movement noted that the regime's execution of hundreds of citizens in the past month was a warning to the public regarding the regime's willingness to carry out a bloodbath in order to protect its existence, as it did with members of the Mojahedeen-e Khalq opposition group in prisons in Iran in the 1980s. The website added that according to human rights activists, not all executions in the Iranian prisons are reported., (Iran) January 23, 2011.

[2], January 30, 2011

[3] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 3561, "In Friday Speech to Arab World, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei Calls Upon Egyptian Army to Join Masses in Ousting Mubarak; In Sermon, Says Voice of Iranian Nation Echoing in Muslim World," February 4, 2011, In Friday Speech to Arab World, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei Calls Upon Egyptian Army to Join Masses in Ousting Mubarak; In Sermon, Says Voice of Iranian Nation Echoing in Muslim World

[4] Khamenei added that the most important motivation for the uprisings was the yearning for the sacred religion of Islam and for independence, and said: "In the Islamic world today, a great and crucial event is developing, an event that could tip the balance of arrogance in this region in the favor of Islam and the peoples. This event can restore honor and glory to the Arab and Islamic peoples, and can wipe from their faces the dust of decades of oppression and humiliation inflicted upon these noble peoples by the West and America.

"This miraculous event was started by the Tunisian people, and has reached its peak through the efforts of the great and wise Egyptian people. The Tunisian people have managed to expel the treacherous pro-American ruler, who publicly declared his enmity to Islam.

"The awakening of the Muslim Egyptian people is an Islamic liberation movement. On behalf of the Iranian people and the revolutionary Iranian government, I salute the Egyptian and Tunisian peoples, asking Allah to grant them a complete victory. Your awakening makes me feel proud." Press TV, IRIB (Iran), February 4, 2011.

[5] Mehr, Press TV (Iran), February 2, 2011. Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi made statements in a similar vein. Fars (Iran), February 9, 2011.

[6] Fars (Iran), February 2, 2011.

[7] Kayhan (Iran), February 3, 2011

[8] Kayhan (Iran), February 3, 2011. Ayatollah Javadi-Emoli also reiterated the idea of the export of the revolution, saying in a speech to air force officers that according to Khomeini, "the supporters and soldiers of Iran are not limited only to Iran," and that today these soldiers in Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria are undertaking admirable deeds. Fars (Iran), February 7, 2011.

[9] Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), February 6, 2011

[10] Qodsna (Iran), February 1, 2011.

[11] Kayhan (Iran), February 6, 2011.

[12] Kaleme (Iran), February 1, 2011.

[13] Kaleme (Iran), February 5, 2011

[14] Kaleme (Iran), January 31, 2011;, February 7, 2011

[15] Kaleme (Iran), February 2, 2011.

[16] Kaleme (Iran), February 7, 2011.

[17] Kaleme (Iran), January 29, 2011.

[18] Kaleme (Iran), February 7, 2011.

[19] Ebtekar (Iran), February 7, 2011.

[20] Mashreghnews (Iran), January 31, 2011.

Share this Report: