Egypt and Iran, Morsi and Rouhani

Enough with the movie reviews for the moment! As I have had to delay my post on Arab-world national beauty pageants, I will weigh in instead on recent events in two of my favorite countries to discuss, Egypt and Iran!

Egypt: We don’t give a “dam;” No Morsi!

Oh, what else is new? President Mohammad Morsi has reached an all-time popularity low, with 54% of the population apparently in favor of early presidential elections. In other words, Egyptians-er, the youth-want him out! Since the one-year anniversary of Morsi’s presidency is coming up on June 30th, people want him out-and a huge protest is slated to be held on June 30th “in the manner of the January 25th Revolution,” my husband described. Morsi’s followers are not making the situation any better, lashing out with incendiary tirades quite worthy of a, uh, dictatorship. Islamic preacher Wagdy Ghoneim has stated that those who will be protesting on June 30th are “disbelievers” who are trying to “abort” the Islamic project and additionally are former President Hosni Mubarak’s henchman. Oh yes, smooth move trying to equate a mere mortal with Islam! Although the job is an almost-impossible one, I must admit that Morsi has not made the best out of the situation, but I am not surprised; anyone who believes that “beauty pageants should be banned” probably doesn’t have human rights, the liberty to choose, religious freedom or women in mind (call that silly, but you can read a lot from the silly things).

In a new development, Egyptian Army General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has announced that the army will be ready to “take action” on June 30th in order to prevent the country from sliding into a  “dark tunnel” of conflict, according to CBS News. Note: he does not mean siding with the overly-fanatic sector of Morsi supporters. He means protecting Egypt…against who? Against what? Apparently the military isn’t really happy about how Morsi treated it after coming to power, therefore the protesters will have the army on their side this time around should things get supremely ugly.

An Egyptian farmer, sourced from Al Jazeera. com

Egypt is also dealing with another crisis of a different sort, this time with a diplomatic edge. Ethiopia’s construction of a hydro-power dam on the Nile River (already 20% complete), which will alter the flow of the Nile with possibly severe and damaging effects to Egypt, has provoked fury. A recent Bloomberg article cited Morsi as declaring on live television to “defend each drop of the Nile with our blood.” Hmm, sounds like those are fighting words! Ethiopia-and the Bloomberg writer-seem to believe that there will be no problems in store for Egypt; I certainly can’t scientifically vouch who’s right. However, the Ethiopian government has made two mistakes. Firstly, the country had acted without the consent of “shoreline states” (to use World Bank terminology), which said World Bank does not condone. International organizations and stipulations aside, this was a colossal mistake: Egypt and Sudan-through which the Nile also runs- deserve to have a say in what Ethiopia does, since the Nile is their chief water source. 20 percent of its Nile water in the three to five years

Secondly, Ethiopia has apparently not conducted experiments on the possible environmental impacts of this dam that it is so eager to build, a mistake that could hurt the nation as well as Egypt and Sudan. Egypt could lose 20% of the Nile thanks to the construction of a huge reservoir in Ethiopia; how will that affect Egypt’s climate and agriculture? How will this reservoir affect Ethiopia’s landscape? Will it flood nearby villages, like the building of Lake Nasser in Egypt did? Will any animal or plant species be wiped out? It simply does not make sense that Ethiopia, which is spending more than $4 billion on the project, cannot spare some funds to hypothesize the environmental side affects.

The last thing Egyptian’s need is a severe water crisis on their hands, and it’s just one more issue for Morsi to divert his attention to. Ethiopia needs to open a dialogue and take some positive action. Oh, and one question: what happened to windpower? Least no one tries to claim the wind.

Iran: Welcome, Rouhani?!

Something unheard of happened during the Iranian presidential elections last week: the event passed without major incident! Hassan Rouhani was elected to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without a controversy over votes or corruption or protest.

President Hasan Rouhani, sourced from The Guardian UK.

The 64-year old Rouhani, who in 2003 was appointed Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, reminds me of Egypt’s Morsi. Morsi was supposedly a little less conservative for a Muslim Brotherhood candidate; he had a degree and tolerance for the United States and appeared conservative with his beard and hijabi’d wife. He seemed all-around diplomatic enough. Rouhani too is religious, a mullah whose wife is hidden from public view and who wears a turban and cheerful smile. He even spent time with the infamous Khomeini during his Parisian exile. But yet he also seems to be moderate, to crave peaceful relations with the United States. Like Morsi, he pushes religion with the government, but also acknowledges that the government and some democratic participation must exist.

Obviously it is too early to pass judgement on Rouhani. If the Iranian people are content with him, than at least his election wasn’t a rigged one and he came about his job honestly. A happy crowd is a productive crowd, after all. His diplomatic skills and willingness to negotiate over the nuclear arms project set him apart from Ahmadinejad, but just because he seems like an “improved” version of the former president doesn’t mean that he will be perfect, or even adequate; it does not mean that he will not make mistakes.

“It’s easy to lose sight of this but Rouhani’s campaign…concern themselves much more with domestic issues, particularly the economy, than with foreign policy,” writes Washington Post journalist Max Fisher, and I must say he has hit the nail on the head with that statement. For Americans, the most important issue regarding Iran-or any country-is whether a newly elected leader wants to be friends or enemies with the United States, but that is probably the last thing on the average Iranian’s mind. I think we’re so busy seeing the Iranian (insert any country-name) government as a threat that we forget that the Iranian government also exists to serve the Iranian people and their mundane, everyday problems, no matter how much it appears to be focused on other things.

I certainly hope that Rouhani would prefer to focus on domestic issues instead of trying to frighten other countries, both regionally and internationally, with Iran’s nuclear prowess. There really hasn’t been any mention (in the English-speaking press, anyway) about his future plans for Iranian women, but here’s to hoping that he gives them a say. At the very least, I hope he doesn’t make their situation more worse than it already is!

Iran and Egypt are both posed (for the umpteenth times in recent history) on the edge of  a precipice which could define the next 5-,10- or even 20-years of their political and social futures. Let’s hope Morsi and Rouhani can grasp the reigns and hold on for the ride–and make that ride less bumpier than it has to be.




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