Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s monumental decision to relinquish his 30 years of dictatorial power on Feb. 11 is bigger than you may think.
In the world’s most volatile region, millions of Egyptians took to the streets and brilliantly utilized the power of protest to topple their autocratic leader–all in under three weeks. After being handed temporary power by the embattled president, the Egyptian military will draft a new constitution that will drastically differ from the policies of Mubarak.
How will Egyptians decide their fate? Under Mubarak, government corruption was rampant and a vast majority of the country suffered widespread poverty–all to the tune of receiving billions in aid from the United States and other western countries.
But what does this mean for the west? Are we repeating history? This sudden transformation has nearly all the characteristics of Iran’s 1979 revolution which saw the overthrow of the pro-western Reza Pahlavi and gave way to a previously-exiled leader who fiercely denounced the west and advocated Islam as the way of the land.
Will the anti-western Muslim Brotherhood, a banned political group in Egypt (and supported by Iran) advocate for an Islamic-only Middle East and promote the severing of ties with the west if Egyptians democratically elect the group to power?
Under the pre-1979 leadership of Reza Shah Pahlavi, Iran had been a close western ally–whose leader also repressed its citizens. But the Iranian people, using the power of protest, stood up and overthrew their western-friendly leader while welcoming and eventually voting to power the fiercely anti-western and pro-Islamic Ayatollah Khomeini, whose own profile was directly opposite of the deposed Shah.
Millions of Iranians supported Ayatollah Khomeini’s power grab in 1979. But for Egyptians, it’s different this time. How do today’s Egyptians view their country’s relationship with the west? Will citizens of the Arab Republic use their country’s latent democratic powers to usher in a newer, more prosperous and more democratic Egypt for the 21st century? Will they desire to see their country take the steps to become a credible leader in the Middle East?
Or will voters prefer to see their country take the path of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This was made abundantly clear in 2009 after protesters angrily took to the streets to decry the highly questionable re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah’s Revolutionary Guard responded in kind.
The 2011 Egyptian revolution will have a profound effect on world affairs and we should all be fortunate to have witnessed such a life-changing event, hopefully for the better this time.