By Rachel Avraham
Rabbi Gamliel, who is thought to have lived in the city of Lod during the beginning of the first century, is quoted in the Passover Haggadah, saying “In every generation, a person must regard himself as though he had personally gone out of Egypt, as it is said: ‘And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me that I went out of Egypt.’ Therefore, it is our duty to thank, praise, laud, glorify, exalt, honor, bless, extol him who performed all these miracles for our ancestors and us: He who brought forth from bondage to freedom, from sorrow into joy, from mourning into festivity and from sorrow into great light.”
Just as every generation of Jews should regard themselves as if they personally left Egypt, each generation should also note that there are various regimes in our world today that also carry on the legacy of pharaoh, from Russia, China, and Iran to Turkey and even the US under the Biden administration. There are many parallels between pharaoh and various totalitarian regimes in our times, as well as modern-day leaders who aspire to be like pharaoh.
Sirwan Mansouri, a Kurdish journalist based in the Middle East, proclaimed in an exclusive interview: “Although the pharaohs lived thousands of years ago, the legacy of their crimes against humanity and enslavement lives on among some rulers, whose dictatorial regimes torture and oppress today. Among these regimes is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Crimes like amputating body parts, publicly lashing, imprisoning, and torturing are among the crimes the mullah’s commit that are like pharaoh. The regime shoots, imprisons, and tortures Kurdish kolbars, who are day-laborers compelled to smuggle goods across the borders in slave-like conditions due to the oppressive policies of the mullahs in Tehran. They treat other minority groups like the Ahwazi Arabs and Baloch no better. They slaughter Jews, Christians, and Bahais just because they [have] different beliefs. Like the pharaohs of antiquity, the regime commits these crimes in the name of God.”
Golboz Bahrami, another Kurdish journalist, concurred: “What the Islamic Republic of Iran has done to its own people especially to the ethnic minorities is on par with what the pharaohs did and a crime against humanity. Even more worrisome, its crimes are not restricted to its borders, but extend to the Middle East, Africa, and even South America. Their regimes survive by brutally repressing others, just like the pharaohs of antiquity.” In Iran, not only is the regime oppressing minorities; forced labor, child labor, sexual slavery, and human trafficking are also widespread. In fact, the US State Department ranked Iran in tier three when it comes to practicing modern-day slavery, which is the lowest rank there is.
However, Iran is not the only country that practices slavery today. China placed its Uighur population in ‘re-education camps” that are nothing more than concentration camps and the Chinese authorities force them to work in slavery-like conditions. Senior policy analyst Olivia Enos with The Heritage Society reported that satellite imagery confirms that “170 of the 260 known political reeducation camps have shared facilities with factories, where the detainees are no doubt forced to work.” The Chinese Communist government cannot tolerate the religious beliefs of the Uigher population and so they repress them, fearing their beliefs will undermine Communist China, just as pharaoh repressed the Jews for he feared they would become mighty and prosper due to their growing numbers and their strong belief in God.
In Russia, it was recently reported that Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is being held in a prison camp, which is known for its repression of inmates. Navalny wrote that “video cameras are everywhere; everyone is watched and at the slightest violation they make a report. I think someone upstairs read Orwell’s 1984 and said: ‘Yeah, cool. Let us do this. Education through dehumanization.’” Russian prisoners are often forced to perform labor under harsh conditions as well. Just as the pharaoh’s feared the Jews would become mighty if they were not brutalized, the Russian government is afraid that their critics would become too strong if they were not similarly repressed.
“Slavery never ended,” says Terry FitzPatrick, the Communications and Advocacy Director at Free the Slaves, an international non-governmental organization and a lobby group that works to eradicate slavery around the world. “It was never abolished; it was actually outlawed. It was never really eradicated. So Free the Slaves exists to help finish the job that was started by earlier generations more than a century ago.” According to the UN, more than 40 million people today are trapped in modern-day slavery.
While the Chinese Communist Party, the Mullahs, and Putin truly are modern-day pharaohs, there are other leaders who aspire to be like pharaoh. Turkish Jewish journalist Rafael Sadi noted that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan treats himself as a sultan, but the Turkish constitution bars him from becoming a sultan, much less a pharaoh. He wrote, “He gives the impression of being a sultan or even a Khalifa, but this is just a show for his voters.” Turkish security researcher Bartu Eken concurred, stressing that the pharaoh metaphor is not relevant for Turkey, because Erdogan’s political actions are mainly carried out at the socio-economic and rhetorical level.
Similarly, while US President Joe Biden said, “You can’t legislate by executive order unless you are a dictator,” he has been governing exactly like that since he came to office, singing more executive orders than any other US president during his first days in office. Thus, it appears that Biden too wishes he had the power to govern like a pharaoh, but the US Constitution blocks him from doing that.
As Mansouri noted, “What can be concluded is that the modern-day pharaohs are tyrannical, cruel and criminal rulers who commit every crime just to stay in power.
Although thousands of years have gone by since the Exodus out of Egypt, these tyrannical rulers are the inheritors of the legacy of the pharaohs in the worst way and regard their people as slaves, who should be brutally repressed.”
Yet, this Passover, let us declare, “Next year in Jerusalem,” so these people can be freed from the tyranny of both the modern-day pharaohs and the pharaoh want-to-be’s.
Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working for the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, which is run by Mendi Safadi, a former Likud Candidate for the Knesset and a former chief of staff of former Israeli Communication Minister Ayoob Kara. Since 2012, she has been working as an Israel-based journalist and writer, covering Iran, Kurdistan, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other developments in the greater Islamic world.
Her articles have appeared in the Washington Times, the Hill, Front Page Magazine, the Daily Wire, the Christian Post, the Baltimore Jewish Times, the Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, Ahval and many other publications across the globe. She received her MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She got her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.