Then and Now: The Current Political Climate of Iran

Iran is the only country in the world led by Islamic clergy. Forty years ago this past February, Iran’s secular intellectual elites joined with the conservative clergy to overthrow the Western-backed monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Soon after ousting the Shah’s regime, the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared Iran an Islamic republic. The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) implemented Islam and forced its laws in every area: personal life, family and society. The people of Iran have seen theocratic Islam in action firsthand for 40 years.

What do they think now?

In this series of blogs, I discuss the current spiritual, political, social, and economic climate in Iran and why I believe Islamic rule in Iran is nearing its end.

Part 2

The Current Political Climate of Iran

After 40 years of theocratic rule, the people have changed their political thinking and behavior.

Building of the Iranian Parliament in Tehran

Celebration rallies ignored

Not many people showed up at government-sponsored rallies celebrating the 40th year of the Islamic Revolution a few weeks ago. In previous years, the government successfully forced its employees and their families to form a crowd on the streets. Then the news agencies used coverage of the crowd to proclaim that the government was popular. But this year the celebration was a disaster—even government employees and their families refused to show up.  

But this year the celebration was a disaster—even government employees and their families refused to show up.

Iran’s media said they were showing live coverage of people marching on streets supporting the government, but for the most part, they were using footage from previous years. It was rainy in the cities in the north, but the supposed live coverage showed a very nice sunny day. Even in Tehran, the media showed “live” rallies on the streets but had to mask the trees because in the previous year at this time, the trees were green (there was an early spring), but this year the winter was longer and the trees still had no leaves. This obvious attempt at deception was all over social media and a matter of laughter and discredit for the government. 

Desire for secular government

The majority of Iranians want separation of religion from politics. Iranians admire America and everything American. If they had a choice, and if there was ever a referendum, an overwhelming majority would vote for a secular government—American style. 

Secure communication breakthrough

The Green Movement in 2009, an outburst of rallies objecting to voting fraud, was organized using Twitter. So the government shut it down easily after shutting down Twitter because the people had no secure way to communicate with each other. For years, phones and the internet have been filtered and controlled; Facebook has been blocked. 

But in 2015, free and secure social media apps (such as Telegram, WhatsApp, and Viber) became available. Secure social media has revolutionized the spread of information and communication between people once again. The people ignore untrustworthy government-sponsored channels and media; they look for true information only from satellite broadcasts, the internet (using VPN), and through these apps.

 The people look for true information only from satellite broadcasts, the internet (using VPN), and secure apps.

Rejection of terrorism sponsorship

Iran has become the top financer of terrorism around the world. It is a destabilizing force in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq. The people of Iran, however, are bitterly against the IRI’s involvement in those countries saying to their government, “You care more about them and advancing your agenda than you care about your own people. We are suffering financially, and you are spending so much money advancing your agenda around the world.”

Rejection of the nuclear bomb

Development of nuclear bombs and cruise missiles has always been the top priority of the IRI. They pursue these weapons despite financial difficulties and sanctions because they believe that having them will ensure no threat from outside can topple them. They want the nuclear bomb also to bully other countries with the threat of nuclear attack. The majority of Iranians have a different view about the nuclear bomb: “We as a nation have a right to have it, but our government will abuse it.” They feel it is like giving an irresponsible child a gun. 

Rejection of enmity with America

One comment I constantly heard from the people of Iran about Obama’s nuclear deal was “Americans are so naive.” After the signing of the deal, there was a celebratory spirit in the Parliament in Iran saying, “We gained a lot without giving up much.” The deal’s intention was not to stop them from developing nuclear bombs but just to slow them down. What made them happy was that they could continue the development of nuclear weapons because the inspection of the nuclear sites had so many constraints, and the inspection of the military sites was not allowed at all. 

The government takes Trump’s warnings very seriously, however, because they know that he is a man of action. So since mid-January 2019, the IRI has been warning the people of Iran that an attack by the USA is imminent. Of course, they magnify this threat to distract the people from noticing how miserable their lives are and that the government’s policies have failed and have destroyed Iran’s economy. 

Before the 1979 revolution, Iran was a close ally of the USA and Israel. Now according to the IRI, America is the “Great Satan” and Israel is the “Little Satan.” Both must be destroyed by any means, including the nuclear option. But neither of these concepts are believed or supported by the Iranians. Even with the threat of a USA/Israel attack of Iran, many are welcoming it saying, “Please come and help us get rid of these mullahs.” 

Many are saying, “Please come and help us get rid of these mullahs.

Iranians want political change

At the time of the revolution, the people supported Khomeini and thought Islamic rule would bring relief from corruption and the western social values that were invading Iran. But they have witnessed that there is now more corruption, more injustice, more moral decay, more disintegration of the society than in the Shah’s time. 

Throughout much of the past four decades, the people believed that their efforts to make a change through voting in presidential leaders would make a difference in their country’s leadership. In the past year and a half, their eyes have opened to the truth that only a total regime change will make any difference. The regime can no longer deceive its people with a scripted political play of alternating moderate and hard-liner presidents. 

In conclusion, the Iranians are open and ready not only to a spiritual revival but also to a major political change—from a theocratic dictatorship to a secular democracy. 

Next week: the current social climate of Iran.

Then and Now: A Look at What Forty Years of Islamic Rule Has Brought to Iran

Iran is the only country in the world led by Islamic clergy. Forty years ago this past February, Iran’s secular intellectual elites joined with the conservative clergy to overthrow the Western-backed monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Both the aristocracy and clergy wanted to remove the influence of foreign nations, stabilize an economy suffering from high inflation and overspending on large modernization projects, and regain previous power roles and wealth that government corruption and the Shah’s growing oppression of dissidents had taken away from them.

Soon after ousting the Shah’s regime, the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared Iran an Islamic republic. The religious right quickly removed their secular, leftist allies from power, and enforced a return to the conservative religious and social values that the Shah had upended with his modernization program. The general populace—who had seen their country move rapidly from a conservative rural society to a modern urban and industrial one in less than a generation—welcomed the change.

Kashan, Iran: Iranian families suffer increasing inflation, unemployment, and distrust of their corrupt government. Photo: grigvovan

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) implemented Islam and forced its laws in every area: personal life, family and society. The people of Iran have seen theocratic Islam in action firsthand for 40 years.

What do they think now?

In a series of blogs over the next few weeks, I will discuss the current spiritual, political, social, and economic climate in Iran and why I believe Islamic rule in Iran is nearing its end.

Part 1

The Current Spiritual Climate of Iran

After 40 years of theocratic rule, the people have changed their spiritual thinking and behavior.

Rejection of Islam

The people of Iran have seen Islamic rule in action for 40 years. A growing number have concluded that Islam is not the answer to their problems; it is the source of their problems. They realize that if they want a better future for their country, they need to get rid of Islam and Islamic rule. 

The rejection of Islam has occurred little by little over many years, not overnight. It is not an emotional reaction to suffering and injustice but rather a thoughtful and deliberate decision. The number of people who want nothing to do with Islam grows daily. We now get reports regularly from our viewers saying such things as, “My uncle who was a devout Muslim and pro-government just one year ago now says Islam is not of God and is interested in Christianity.”

The rejection of Islam is so wide and deep that I can boldly say Iran is turning away from Islam and will never go back to it. Indeed, Islam is experiencing the greatest defeat of its history in Iran today.

“My uncle who was a devout Muslim and pro-government just one year ago now says Islam is not of God and is interested in Christianity.”

–Report from Iranian viewer

Growth of secularism

As a result of the rejection of Islam, Iranians have become attracted to secularism both politically and socially. They do not want to be religious. They want to be free, and they think that to live free means to do whatever they desire to do. Many are embracing a life of immorality, drugs, sex, and hedonism—a total reaction to the oppressive dictatorship of Islam. Since Islam was forced on them as the best religion in the world, they say, “If this was the best religion, let’s forget about the rest.” As a result, those who walk away from Islam usually do not want anything to do with any organized religion including Christianity, until we show them that Christianity is not like Islam. This is why so many have come to Christ through our satellite broadcasts.

Growth of Christianity

Currently, Christianity is more respected and valued in Iran than Islam. This attitude is amazing because Iran is still a Muslim country and almost all were born as Muslims. I just read a quote on Instagram from a Muslim addressing the clergy in Iran: “I’d rather go to hell with Christians than go to heaven with Muslims like you.” The media, and especially satellite broadcasts, have had a major role in dispersing the lies and misconceptions about Christianity such as these: Christians worship three Gods, they are blasphemers, they are drunkards and live immoral lives. According to Operation World Research, Iran has the fastest growing evangelical population in the world with 19.6 percent growth per year. 

Persecution of Christians

Persecution in Iran is a reaction of the government to the growth of Christianity. The government has, to a great extent, destroyed its opposition inside the country. They feel safely in control because they know the people of Iran are reluctant to bear arms and start a violent revolution. The only wildcard out of their control that can threaten their future is the growth of Christianity. They realize they cannot stop this growth, but they are trying to slow it by intimidating Christians so they will neither witness nor gather together. It is a campaign of intimidation and isolation. 

Spiritual freedom of the younger generation

The emerging younger generation is free from fear. They have little fear of the government. They are convinced that Islam is not of God, so they are not afraid to deny Islam. Religion is a non-issue for them. They want change but are unwilling to use violence to topple the government. They live a hopeless life not seeing any bright future for themselves. Suicide, drug addiction, and sexual immorality are rampant among the youth in Iran. The good news is that once they come to Christ and find a purpose in their lives, they boldly spread the gospel. Many are not even afraid of arrests and even death. I heard many young Christians say “I am not afraid of death because before Jesus, I was dead; indeed, He gave me life.” Another young man told me, “I am not afraid of them. They are afraid of me and my gospel message.”

The role of satellite broadcasts

Satellite broadcasts have been essential for delivering information to Iranians’ living rooms despite the government’s obsessive control of media and communication within the country. The government regulates and monitors the internet in Iran, so searching online can be very dangerous. But watching the 40 illegal but available satellite channels in the privacy of a home is not dangerous. The people of Iran get the latest news and hear the voices of government opposition 24/7 via satellite. 

Iranians watch Church 7 on live satellite broadcast.

Satellite broadcasts have been essential for delivering information to Iranians’ living rooms despite the government’s obsessive control of media and communication within the country. The government regulates and monitors the internet in Iran, so searching online can be very dangerous. But watching the 40 illegal but available satellite channels in the privacy of a home is not dangerous. The people of Iran get the latest news and hear the voices of government opposition 24/7 via satellite. 

Satellite broadcast has played a great role in evangelizing Muslims and strengthening persecuted Christians as well. There are an estimated 3 million Muslim background believers in Iran (some put a conservative estimate at 1 million and some extrapolate up to 6 million). Most have never been to a church of any kind even once. They are prisoners in their homes when it comes to worship or learning more about Jesus. The number of underground house churches and the count of people attending them are very small compared to the total number of Christians. It is estimated that only 5 percent of Christians in Iran are a part of the underground church. That is why Iran Alive’s global church and its broadcast services are so popular in Iran—it is the only church the people have available and can belong to. 

Freedom from Islam’s spiritual bondage

Spiritually, a veil has been lifted from the minds of Iranians. Muslims, in general, prohibit independent thought and questioning their faith. I have seen intelligent Muslims with PhDs freeze up when I ask them questions that require them to think independently rather than repeat answers given by an authority. In Iran, however, using reason and questioning Islam has become a norm and even a fad. Unlike Muslims in other countries, an increasing number of Iranian Muslims are looking at Islam objectively and considering other options with an open mind. 

Diminishing hatred toward the Jews

Hatred towards the Jews and Israel is diminishing gradually. First, those who come to Christ learn from the Bible to pray for Israel and that the Lord has special plans for the Jewish nation. They also learn that the Lord wants them to love all nations including the Jews. Such love is expected of true Christians, but what is unexpected is that a growing number of Muslimsare also questioning the government’s mandate to hate the Jews and wipe Israel off the map. There is such distrust toward the government that when the government sets up rallies shouting, “Death to Israel,” they say, “We don’t trust you. Tell us why we should hate Israel. What have they done to us? You are our true enemy not them.”

Iran has been approaching this turn in its spiritual climate for many years, and now, especially in this past year, it is picking up speed.

Next week: the current political climate of Iran.