Great expectations – Ukraine and…Iran

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Ukraine crisis of 2014 turned out to be one of the key points for the geopolitical puzzle on the map of Europe. The final outcome of the events following the overthrow of president Victor Yanukovych and military presence of Russian troops in Crimea is still unknown. Mitigation of the effects of drastic changes that took place in the region will surely take decades. However, what may appear as a bit of surprise is the impact of the so called Ukrainian revolution on the domestic policy in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Essentially one needs to identify two major issues – alleged similarities between Iranian and Ukrainian regimes and the stand of the Iranian officials on the Ukrainian unrest itself. These factors seem to be interrelated, yet they need to be separated.

A point brought up in Forbes magazine where Andrew K. Davenport compares two political systems which seem to be strangely close to each other is somewhat legitimate. Both Yanukovych and Rouhani were elected in the overall national atmosphere of a need for change, mostly economic. Both Ukrainians and Iranians experienced negative effects of the economic deterioration (nonetheless caused by different set of factors) in the last few years. The aforementioned need for change, also in terms of politics, should be recognized in both countries without any doubt.

The Iranian notion of “envy and dismay” towards Ukrainian path to freedom was visible mostly among reformist bloggers and twitter users. The voice of support for Ukrainian opposition appeared as well in reformist magazines such as „Etemad” („Trust”) and „Shargh” („East”). Feelings of remorse were connected with the fact that key figures of Iranian opposition movement such as Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi are still under the house arrest despite Rouhani’s claims of his willingness on easing the political situation in the Islamic Republic. Some bloggers doubt the intentions of the current president relating to the recent ban of anti-filtering software which was used by many Iranians as a tool of gaining access to websites such as Facebook or Twitter. Ironically, both ayatollah Khamenei and president Rouhani are very active in spreading their ideas via social media. The recipients of their messages, however, are mostly Western media, not Iranian citizens.

Hard-line media in the Islamic Republic obviously adopted a different approach. Due to internal and external aspects of Iranian politics, some of them such as Kayhan related to Ukrainian unrest as a plot made by the EU and the Americans. Ukrainian opposition known under the name „Oranges” (like Iranian „Greens” of 2009) was inspired and founded by the Western Alliance in order to destabilize domestic situation. Strong anti-imperialism and anti-westernism as usual is present in the language of Iranian officials who remark that all nations should wary of the perils of “satanic capitalism”.

As we can see the discussion that sparkled in the Islamic Republic due to Ukraine crisis shows the deep divisions in domestic politics in Iran. Yet, do these two countries have as much in common as it is claimed by some of the analysts…? On February 24, Iran’s Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi explained that Iran and Iranian establishment are not comparable to places like Ukraine because the Islamic Republic is a „stable and powerful” state. Seems like to certain extent he may have a point here. However, as the example of another country much closer to Iran that has been going through dramatic changes – Syria – shows, the stability and power are not granted forever.

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Dominika Klimowicz

Doktorantka na Wydziale Dziennikarstwa i Nauk Politycznych UW. Absolwentka Instytutu Stosunków Międzynarodowych (2013) oraz Centrum Europejskiego UW (2013), studiowała także na Maastricht University w Holandii (LLP Erasmus). Stypendystka Erasmus Mundus SALAM na Uniwersytecie Teherańskim (8 miesięcy). Odbywała staże w Ministerstwie Gospodarki oraz Ministerstwie Spraw Zagranicznych RP. Główne zainteresowania badawcze: stosunki międzynarodowe na Bliskim Wschodzie, polityka zagraniczna Islamskiej Republiki Iranu, nieproliferacja broni jądrowej, szyizm jako ideologia polityczna, kultura i tożsamość narodowa Iranu.

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