Something that struck me about the Green Revolution in Iran is how invested the world is in it. It touches on all the right narratives: telegenic, courageous youth facing off against dour mullahs on the streets, straight out of the lyrics of Buffalo Springfield. But why not elsewhere? Why, for example, aren’t Americans and the Twitterverse abuzz about the Egyptian democratic reform movement? Is it because Egypt is under a secular autocracy rather than a religious one? Or something else?
I posed this question at Talk Islam and it sparked an interesting, if somewhat tangential, discussion. The best response so far though to the question has been from Willow Wilson (author of Cairo and AIR), who lived in Egypt for a few years after converting to Islam. She responded,
The Egyptian state is much cannier at repressing dissent (and the reportage on dissent) so it looks like there’s much less civil discontent in Egypt than there actually is. Hence, less global interest. They’ve been steadily rounding up bloggers for the past half-decade. Most of the first wave of Egyptian bloggers I knew are now in jail. All but the most hardened western journalists stay within the confines the regime sets for them (go here but not here; talk to these people but not those). And, it’s a military regime. The army is loyal to the army, period. If there were ever mass protests as there are in Iran, you’d have regiments of infantry firing into crowds. It’d be Tianamen Square on steroids.
Even in the heyday of Al Ghad, the opposition was never allowed to get as organized as the opposition in Iran.
What does this imply about the value of the massive, unconditional foreign aid we supply to Egypt every year, second only to Israel? Is that money to buy stability in the region, for our and Israel’s benefit alone, and blind to the freedom of the Egyptian people? Something to consider, indeed – especially since Obama himself gave a big speech recently about this over there…
Speaking of Buffalo Springfield, here’s That Song
Related – articles about the Egyptian foreign aid at the CS Monitor and the Forward. Also, via POMED, a reminder that most of the aid to Egypt is “security” and does not provide any tangible economic benefit to the people.