What Are the Differences between the 2009 Green Movement and the 2018 #IranProtests?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Understanding the 2018 Iran Uprising

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).”

Protesters in Tehran's Valiasr avenue overturned a police car-VOA
Protesters in Tehran’s Valiasr avenue overturned a police car on 31 December 2017. (VOA)

Two Uprisings

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.


26400312 - human face painted with flag of iran

“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.

Related articles:

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.

What Will Result from the Iran Uprising?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Understanding the 2018 Iran Uprising

In this series, I have been addressing the spontaneous protests that began in Iran on December 28, 2017, in response to rising economic distress and the corrupt government. At least 22 people have been killed—likely a higher number is true—and a minimum of 1,000 arrested, most under the age of 25.

41378365 - arrested man handcuffed in prison

What is the goal of the protestors?

The demonstrators have no clear vision or clear demands. These demonstrations are the groans and pains of society. The people are crying out because they feel pressured economically and see no way out. They see social injustice and oppression and no hope for any better future.

We must remember that this uprising is not like a Western demonstration, where people fill the streets to protest an issue or stand up for a cause—and then go home. These Iranians know that they can be killed for protesting. Several have been killed already; thousands of others are under arrest.

The protestors’ hopelessness and frustration are so deep that they do not care anymore if they die.

Will violence and arrests stifle the uprising?

The demonstrations have no leadership that can guide them toward a common goal; they are just protesting out of pain, hopelessness, and desperation. Therefore, the movement is not coherent yet, and it has no clear direction to keep it going against repressive violence. So it is very likely that it will be stopped through upcoming violence.

When the uprising quiets down, will that be the end of it?

Even if the demonstrations quiet down, the divide between the people and the government will deepen. The movement will continue as an undercurrent that will show its head again later, stronger than before.

One thing is for sure: the people will no longer be deceived by the “moderate clergy candidate” political play by the clergy. This political show has kept the people entertained and busy for the past 20 years. It will not work any longer.

They may, however, be deceived by the offer of a “secular” or “nonreligious” candidate. This type of candidate will be a deception once again because the government always creates an illusion of change on the surface while doing nothing to change a system where the clergy and the Revolutionary Guards maintain the main economic, military, and political power. As an Iranian proverb says, “It is the same donkey, but the saddle is changed.”

What will result from the uprising, in the near future?

We will most likely see a surge of violence. Plainclothes mercenaries from Syria will shoot and kill hundreds on the streets just as they did in the 2009 uprising. Many young people will be arrested, tortured, or simply disappear. The University of Tehran is already trying to track some of its students who have disappeared.

The Supreme Leader, to appease the people, may blame the situation on a few people in government positions, order their arrest, put them on trial, and execute them. This way, he can show the people that he has heard them, cares for them, and is taking care of the problems of corruption and social injustice.

By eliminating these few, Khamenei will both appease the people and at the same time remove some of those who are causing him trouble. One of these potential figures is the ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has lately been causing some trouble for the power structure. His life may be in danger in the next few weeks and months. The government may blame this mess and corruption on him, arrest him, and put him on trial.

What is Iran Alive Doing?

Since the beginning of the protests, we have been broadcasting a special live program at noon CST (prime time in Iran) every day, even on Saturdays and Sundays. Our goals are to show that

  • God knows their pains, and so do we;
  • God cares about what they are going through, and so do we;
  • God has a plan for Iran and is active in the midst of this chaos and suffering, and we all need to align what we do with what he intends to do in Iran.

We teach them that to do the will of God, we need first to have the mind of God and the heart of God.

Family in front of TV 2
Iranian family watches the Network 7 broadcast.

We know that Iran will be saved according to Jeremiah 49:38, and this is just another step towards that end.

Every day in our live program, we look at the events of the day from a biblical point of view.

  • We evangelize by telling people that they will be again disappointed if they put their hope once again in men.
  • We tell them that if they do not change, then even if the government changes, they will still be miserable.
  • We point out that if they have personal struggles, if they have marriage problems, and if they have an addiction, a change of government will not solve that. Their only hope is Jesus Christ, who can make a true and eternal change both in their lives and also in the society.
  • We also teach Christians to be salt and light in the midst of this darkness. They must be active in helping people who are suffering and at the same time share the gospel by telling others that only Jesus is the true solution to the problems in Iran.

How should we pray?

Many families have been torn apart. Many reports tell of people congregating around Evin Prison in Tehran, hoping to secure the release of family members. Some young people have been killed, and many have disappeared. Please pray for these young people and their families.

People are also suffering economic hardship, no longer able to buy milk, cheese, or eggs. Pray that they would come to know that God loves them and cares about their situation. Pray that the leaders in Iran will have compassion on their people and instead of treating them as thugs, accusing them of being CIA agents, and heartlessly killing them, that they would care for their felt needs.

This is a great time for Christians to shine. Pray that the 2 million Christians in Iran will reflect Christ’s character by their love and actions. Also pray they will bring true hope and lasting change to the lives of millions by sharing the gospel.

And finally, please pray for Iran Alive. God has graciously positioned us to have a tangible impact on at least 6 million people according to a recent poll. This is the number who watch us regularly and for whom we are their favorite channel. Pray that the Lord will give us wisdom and provide for us financially so that we can have maximum impact during this historic time in Iran.

Look for parts 4 and 5 of this series later this week.

Related Articles:

CNN, Laura Smith-Spark. “Iran Protests: University Tracks Detained Students.” CNN. Accessed January 9, 2018.

USA and Iran Partnering in Iraq? 5 questions answered – #5

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series USA and Iran Partnering in Iraq?

5.  Will the US and Iran partner in Iraq to stop ISIS?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
  1. Both have similar interests: to help the current Shiite Government of Iraq maintain control and stop the Sunni ISIS from taking over Iraq.
  2. They may partner in some ways to help stop ISIS but will never acknowledge it publicly.
  3. Iran has a major influence in Iraq where the majority of the population is Shiites and the government is led by Shiites.
  4. Iran’s goal has been to get the US out of Iraq and be the sole influencer of the Shiite Iraqi regime. They are happy that the US has pulled out of Iraq and do not want to see the US’s influence and presence increase. Therefore, they may work with the US for the short time but will want the US out of Iraq as soon as ISIS is stopped.

USA and Iran Partnering in Iraq? 5 questions answered – #4

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series USA and Iran Partnering in Iraq?

4.  How the events in Iraq will impact His Kingdom?christian-persecution

  1. Christians in Iraq and Syria have been persecuted and have been leaving as refugees.
  2. Under ISIS, the killing and persecution of Christians will dramatically increase. It has already started and there will be a mass exodus of Christians.
  3. The brutality of ISIS will cause millions of Muslims to have an objective look at Islam. Many of them will come to reject Islam and become open to the message of the Gospel. This is what happened in Iran. Millions of Syrian refugees have seen the brutality of Islamist “freedom fighters” of ISIS. Many of them are coming to Christ in refugee camps in Turkey.

Counting the Days

Sometimes simple statements make large impressions.  A few weeks ago, I received a brief email of encouragement from one of our Church 7 viewers inside Iran:

Hello Pastor Hormoz,

Today we participated in Church 7 with a few friends. Thank you so much for everything you do. Here in Iran, we count the days for the live Church broadcast.


Amir’s comments were short, but very sweet to me and our staff.  With no other option available to 97% of the believers inside of Iran, Satellite TV provides the only source of spiritual nourishment and encouragement for these hungry people.

Join me in praying for Amir and the hundreds of thousands of believers in Iran who live under the constant threat of persecution for their faith in Christ.  May the Lord grant them grace and mercy as they seek to know and follow Him.

Iran’s Nuclear Agreement: A Good Deal or a Bad Deal?

John Kerry & Javad Zarif
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif at a recent meeting

Iran will temporarily halt parts of its nuclear program and allow for more inspection; in return, the West will provide immediate relief from some of the sanctions and will impose no new sanctions for six months.

Last week’s nuclear agreement between Iran and the western powers was historical.  To some, it may even seem to be a breakthrough given the tenuous relationships shared by Iran and the West. However, reading the news is confusing as some news articles report that it was a “total victory and a great step forward,” while others surmised, “it was a total failure.”

So which is it?  Was it a good deal or a bad deal? The answer depends on the perspective from which the deal is evaluated. Below, I look at this deal and make evaluations of my own, considering 5 unique perspectives from those who will be impacted most deeply.

It was a bad deal for Israel and the Gulf countries

  1. Since 1979, Israel and the Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and Emirates have been afraid of Iran. Countries in the region such as Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria have watched Iran aggressively increase its influence. They feel that a nuclear-armed Iran will pose a serious danger to their respected national security. They also believe that Iran will at least use its nuclear arsenal to bully them and the rest of its neighbors. Iran is already doing that now, but with a nuclear bomb, its bullying and meddling in the affairs of other countries in the region will increase dramatically.  This new deal does not remove the danger to Israel and Gulf countries, but increases it exponentially.
  2. Netanyahu has called this deal “a historic mistake” and has stated, “it turns the world into a much scarier place.” For the first time Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are agreeing with Israel.

It was a bad deal for the US and President Obama’s credibility

  1. It damaged the US’s relationship with Israel and important allies such as Saudi Arabia.
  2. Some have called it a “fool’s deal” as it seems that the West has agreed to an immediate action, (removing some of the sanctions, stopping the addition of new sanctions, and releasing 7 billion dollars of Iranian assets), in return for unverifiable promises in the future.

It was a good deal for the government of Iran

  1. As Obama is under fire and trying to defend the deal in the US, the government of Iran is celebrating their perceived victory.
  2. Iran got money and time to continue its nuclear program with little more commitment than a promise to not build new centrifuges in the next 6 months. The deal, however, left the nuclear infrastructure intact. Iran now has the money to do what it wants to continue with its nuclear program plans and goals.
  3. This deal helps Iran to prepare better for possible future sanctions. So even if new sanctions are imposed in 6 months, it will not have as much impact as it could have.
  4. Iran knows that President Obama does not want to go to war, which puts the US in a weaker position. Iran has been declaring that they are not afraid to go to war and that they are ready for it. They feel they have caused Obama to blink and agree to a favorable deal for their purposes.

It was a good deal for the lives of people in Iran (physically)

  1. It has an immediate impact in increasing the value of Iranian currency (more purchasing power)
  2. It seems to postpone the possibility of war. The possible attack on Iran, when it happens, will bring much suffering to the people of Iran and will take the lives of so many innocent Christian and Muslim people.
  3. This deal takes away the fear of imminent attack on Iran which has put stress in the hearts of the ordinary citizens of Iran for the last two years. People of Iran will live in less fear for at least the next six months.
  4. The people of Iran are happy about this deal because it gives them temporary relief. All the Iranians that I have talked to are convinced that the Iranian government deceived the West to get this deal and soon will find out that this was a deception and reinstate the strict sanctions and threats of military attacks. When I ask them what they think about this deal, many just laugh and say, “Americans are so naïve.”

It was a bad deal: for the lives of people in Iran (spiritually)

  1. This deal gives the people of Iran a false hope. They have been open spiritually because they have been living in fear and hopelessness for so many years. This new deal gives them a false hope and reduces their fear. This may cause them to be less open spiritually.
  2. It distracts them. They feel they have 6 months to secure themselves and prepare for the hardship that is coming. They will be busy making money and spending it for an unknown and unstable future. This can distract them from spiritual pursuit.

Join me in praying:

That the Lord will postpone the war and give the people of Iran a chance to know Him.

That the people of Iran will not invest in a false hope, but that their hopelessness will lead them to the true source of eternal hope: Jesus Christ.

Persians Love Americans

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series 5 Things You Didn't Know about Iran

ImageMy friend, who recently traveled to Iran and took the photo of the empty mosque in my previous post, was also blown away by the overwhelming warm reception he received from the people of Iran.  Even though I told him to expect the people he would meet to be intrigued by an American visiting Iran, he was not prepared for the welcome he received in every city he toured.

In fact, he told me, “I have never been high-fived or hugged so much in my life just for being an American than I was in Iran!”  He was invited to people’s homes, asked for photographs and even told while being embraced by a stranger in a park, “You are my brother.  I am so glad you are here.”

What is portrayed in the media is quite different than the reality of what exists inside the borders of one of the least understood countries in the world.

I want to be clear, however.  The Islamic controlled government  and clergy are indeed extremely dangerous, violent and hateful people who in fact do not love America, Americans or anyone who does not identify themselves with Islam.  This group represents only a fraction of the population.  Unfortunately, it is the only segment we ever see in the West.