Today, sovereignty is treated as a nation’s shadow; it only appears when another nation casts its own light onto it and violates it. Though the principle in itself is being redefined due to forces of globalization and international cooperation, the two kinds of sovereignty – that of the nation and of the people – and the idea of the independence of people to control their own affairs, has been largely overlooked.
Over the past weekend, Iranians protested in several cities after their government shot down a Ukranian jetliner last week that killed 176 people, which happened on the same day that Iranian missiles struck American bases in Iraq. Following the anti-regime protests in Iran that erupted back in November of last year, Iranian independent journalist and activist Masih Alinejad showed videos of young protestors calling this the “second wave of the revolution.”
In one public display of anger, an Iranian newspaper – Etemad daily – declared in a banner headline on Sunday: “Apologize and Resign.” Other demonstrators chanted outside Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran: “They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here.”
The protests turned violent as videos later verified by The Associated Press showed a crowd of demonstrators fleeing as a tear gas canister while coughing and escaping the fumes, with one woman yelling out in Farsi: “They fired tear gas at people! Azadi Square! Death to the dictator!”
The significance of these protests isn’t because of whether they are against the regime or any other different reasons; they are significant primarily because they are a sign of Iranians exercising their sovereignty and independence – whether they are for or against.
Instead of grasping this principle, many have turned instead to exploit and use the events for their own political platform. It is a serious tragic state that currently, in a world which boasts of living in a cooperative and progressive world, has become a deceptive game of chess that takes advantage of other peoples’ exercise of sovereignty.
US President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday: “To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I’ve stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you. We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage.”
To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I've stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you. We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2020
Not only is Trump’s statement contradictory and ironic – as the US administration, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has endlessly been interfering in Iran’s internal affairs since the 1950s, which later propelled the toxic rhetoric and ideology of the Islamic Republic, and imposed sanctions that played a part in the impoverishment of the Iranian people – it also reveals a distressing image of how an external party is willingly capitalizing on the protests to strengthen his political platform.
On the other side, despite positive statements by members of the Democratic party to oppose calls for war or conflict with Iran, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi also remains reluctant to acknowledge any kind of discontent against the Iranian regime in fear of pushing the Republicans’ plan forward. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar also refused to respond when Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad reached out to her after the latter’s brother was taken hostage by the Iranian regime. Instead, Omar chose to remain silent.
Rather than seeing it as the Iranians determining their future, it begins to look more like a political battle between external parties who are for or against the fall of the Iranian regime. Refusing to acknowledge activists, and defaming them according to the political side they align with, is a gross illustration of how the sovereignty of the local Iranian people is being violated, and that toxic forms of globalization are taking place.
As UN Secretary General Kofi Anan stated in a speech in 1999, “Just as we have learnt that the world cannot stand aside when gross and systematic violations of human rights are taking place, we have also learnt that, if it is to enjoy the sustained support of the world’s peoples, intervention must be based on legitimate and universal principles.”
Looking at the current case, these legitimate and universal principles are absent amid the divisions that overshadow them. Imagining a world that respects the two kinds of sovereignty, as well as protecting individuals from violations of human rights, remains impossible until the international system agrees on principles that would prevent deception, capitalization, as well as inaction.
From #Iran: “I’m angry about #Soleimani b/c it undermines our sovereignty, I’m angry that US actions may lead to war, I’m angry at my gov for its incompetence in downing a civilian plane, I’m most angry that I have no hope, no hope for sanctions relief, no hope for our future”
— Assal Rad (@AssalRad) January 11, 2020
Until then, the best we can do is allow the Iranians – with all their different views and hopes – to determine their own future, as other sovereign people in other nations are trying to do.
Essentially, sovereignty is important because freedom is important – freedom from external interference, exploitation, and oppression.
The opinions and ideas expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Egyptian Streets’ editorial team. To submit an opinion article, please email [email protected].