God is the God of history. He uses historical events to advance his purpose. In this blog, by looking at the recent uprising and comparing it to 2009 Green Movement, we will see that in the midst of all these events and even chaos, God is advancing the people of Iran, step by step, toward the fulfilment of his promise in Jeremiah 49:38: “I will set my throne in Elam (Iran).”
In 2009, the Iranian people rose up in protest against the government and demonstrated in the streets. In late December 2017 and early 2018, the people again took to the streets in protest, tore down pictures of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and chanted death slogans. Government forces responded brutally both times, arresting thousands and killing scores of people.
But these two uprisings are very different. Their outcomes will be different, too. This time, the eyes of the people have opened.
What Happened in 2009?
The Green Movement of 2009 happened because the people protested fraud in an election that declared incumbent hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the presidential winner. A majority of people had voted for a moderate candidate, yet the election result did not reflect that vote. The demonstrators, protesting in a few large cities, demanded a recount.
After a brutal crackdown, the people also began demanding civil liberties promised them in the 1979 Revolution.
In 2013, a moderate candidate, Hassan Rouhani, won the election, and the people celebrated.
The Clerical Government’s Political Game
Over and over again, the Islamic government of Iran has deceived its people with a political game: alternately “electing” a hardliner or a moderate candidate to the president’s office. This game show has been going on since the mid-1990s. The people of Iran would become so desperate after a period of a hardliner rule that they would feel victory and relief when they got to elect a moderate president.
They celebrated on the streets when Rouhani was elected in June 2013 and again in May 2017. The majority failed to realize that this election was just a staged political play to keep them busy year after year, for president after president.
During last year’s election campaign for Rouhani, the people were very excited and involved, not fully understanding the implications of having only two clergy-approved candidates: Ebrahim Raisi (with a black turban) and Rouhani (with a white turban).
Both candidates were required to implement the will of the mullahs. The real choice that Supreme Leader Khamenei was giving the people was this: Do you want a president with a black turban or white turban?
The people did not realize that moderate candidates are just a faction of the extremists who want to give the people a little freedom (e.g., letting a woman show her hair a little more without threat of arrest). Otherwise, in policy and decision making, moderates are still committed to obey the Supreme Leader Khamenei and implement his wishes.
“Over and over again, the Islamic government of Iran has deceived its people with a political game: alternately “electing” a hardliner or a moderate candidate to the president’s office.”
What is Happening in 2018?
What is happening now is that the people of Iran are finally waking up to this game. They realize that the mullahs in power have been manipulating them for decades: keeping them busy with governmental politics while advancing their own agenda domestically and internationally and personally benefiting from their positions of power.
They now know that electing a moderate president is a hoax and will never do them any good. We are seeing a big shift in awareness and a desperation for something different, something more.
After the first large-scale demonstrations died down, many mainstream media outlets reported that the spontaneous uprisings had fallen apart. But the eyes of the Iranian people are now open, and this hunger will not go away. I am not the only one saying this. Alireza Nadar, a senior policy analyst at RAND corporation recently wrote the following:
There has been speculation that the uprising will die out or be crushed by the regime. However, a key barrier has been broken: Iranians are no longer contained by the wall of fear created by the Islamic Republic. Not only has Iran’s theocracy lost its legitimacy, but it has lost its ability to control the public through the instruments of violence. Unlike in past protests, countless Iranians have demonstrated that they will no longer participate in the political game of “reformist vs. conservative” (better known as “moderates vs. conservatives” in the West). For them, no one from the establishment, including the so-called reformists, can make their lives better. For them, the entire system has to fall for a new Iran to be reborn. —Alizera Nadar, Politico Magazine
The #IranProtests are the beginning of change. It will take time, but change will happen in the next couple of years. The clerical government likely will not stay in power.
Consider these differences in the response of the people:
- In 2009, the people rejected the result of an election; now they are rejecting the whole Islamic rule, even Islam itself.
- In 2009, the people chanted, “Where is my vote?”; now they are chanting, “Death to the Islamic Republic” and “Death to Khamenei.” Even Rouhani, who was popular and celebrated in the streets after the May 2017 election, is facing “Death to Rouhani” slogans.
- In 2009, the demonstrations occurred in only a few large cities; this time they started in scores of smaller cities and towns before getting to the big cities. The voices of some of these rural people have not been heard as a group since the revolution of 1979.
“This time, the eyes of the people are open.”
How You Can Pray for Iran
The hopelessness and desperation that brought about these protests are real. Iranians are suffering. Officially, forty percent live below the poverty line. In reality, the number is probably higher. They cannot find work. They cannot buy food or gas. Drought and water mismanagement has made it difficult to grow crops.
During our live, prime-time, daily programs in January, we encouraged people that God loves them and cares about their suffering, just as we do. We also shared that God has a plan to save and bless Iran. We showed Christians how to reach out to the demonstrators and provide love and hope. Many did.
Please pray that, God willing, we will be able to continue to mobilize the 2 million Christians in Iran to share the gospel and be the light and love of Christ to a hurting nation.
Pray that their pain will be a bridge to salvation.
Pray that their eyes remain open.
To learn even more about what is happening in Iran and how Iran Alive is responding, read this article by Mindy Belz in World Magazine, “Signals of Change.” You can also text “Iran” to 74784 to sign up for updates and testimonies.
Belz, Mindy. “Signals of Change – WORLD,” February 3, 2018. https://world.wng.org/2018/01/signals_of_change.
Nader, Alireza. “Why the Iranian Uprising Won’t Die.” POLITICO Magazine. http://politi.co/2mcuSiD.