Then and Now: The Current Political Climate of Iran

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Then and Now: 40 Years Rule

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

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Then and Now: 40 Years Rule

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.


What Will Happen to the Church in Iran?

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series What Is Happening in Iran?

What Is Happening in Iran?—Part 5

40226858 - christian religion. illustration with cross of christ and believers
The gospel and leader-training windows are open widest now —before political and economic changes occur. Photo: Carlos Castilla

What Will Happen to the Church in Iran?


This post is part 5 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click hereIf you missed earlier posts, you can read them here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

In Iran, Islam has experienced the greatest defeat in its history. According to Operation World, Iran currently has the fastest growing evangelical population across the globe. Iran’s desperate situation has created a perfect storm for the cause of Christ. Millions have rejected Islam and are open to the message of the gospel. There are now over 3 million believers in Iran.

What will happen when the regime changes in Iran?

Spiritual hunger will suddenly die down. Iranians will suddenly have another hope besides Christ. Non-believers will be more interested in and focused on bringing a democracy to Iran than considering the claims of Christ.

Iranians will have freedom to assemble and start churches. The underground believers will gather into large communities and start many churches. Many evangelists will visit Iran to conduct stadium-size gatherings. Many denominations will send their workers to start new denominational churches. Many Iranian believers will start their own independent churches as well. We must bear in mind, however, that the 3 million believers in Iran are mostly new believers. Many will be distracted by the political events. Many will be deceived by cults and will join cultish churches. Many will start weak churches because they do not have any biblical training. So the visible church will suddenly grow—but it will be weak.

Opportunities for expansion of the gospel in Iran will grow, but so will the dangers that can undercut the gospel’s power. The Church at large has a responsibility at this historic time to be wise concerning Iran and to redeem the time that God has given us.


History is in the making in Iran. As the 40th year of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution approaches, we are seeing the end of this regime. Much is happening in Iran today politically, socially, and spiritually. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.

Location Iran. Green pin on the map.
Much is happening these days in Iran.

There is much news daily about Iran. Following the news carefully and being constantly and directly in touch with the people of Iran has given me a perspective that might be helpful to those who want to understand what is going on. So each day for the next week, I will provide a short commentary on What is happening in Iran.


Next up: What can the worldwide Church do to support its Persian brothers and sisters?

What Options for Survival Does Iran’s Government Have?

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series What Is Happening in Iran?

What Is Happening in Iran?—Part 4

iran-protests-tehran-2
Iranians continue to protest in Tehran and elsewhere despite arrests.

What Options for Survival Does Iran’s Government Have?


This post is part 4 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click hereIf you missed any earlier posts, you can read them here: part 1, part 2, part 3.

The government of Iran (IRI) is going down with or without sanctions. The sanctions will merely speed up the process. The IRI has few options left:

Option 1

Try to reform itself. Reforms will not work because the leaders are too corrupt and disjointed to implement a comprehensive reform and the people of Iran will not buy into any plan that the government supports. The IRI has passed its window of opportunity when reform might have worked.

Option 2

Try to stifle the protest with violence. This option has a high probability of occurring. The IRI has shown that it has no respect for lives. When cornered and their existence threatened, they might easily turn to violence. Not long ago, a top clergyman said, “If we have to kill 1 million to keep Islam in Iran, we will.”

Option 3

Save themselves and let the regime collapse. It is very possible that those in power will abandon their positions and flee the country. Many have already stored their wealth in foreign banks, anticipating the day when they have to flee. The dollar exchange rate tripled recently because those in power were buying billions of dollars to send their wealth abroad. At this point, a military coup is also very possible. If this coup helps dethrone the mullahs and very quickly establishes a secular and democratic government, it could work.

Option 4

Negotiate with the US government. I believe negotiation is the number one option for the IRI and they will take it. Of course, they will not do this publicly. They do not want to lose the little respect and credibility they have before their people and the world by admitting defeat. They will ask for negotiations behind closed doors while at the same time bad mouthing the USA and Trump in public and the media.

 

The IRI has already started planning for reform (option 1). But they are finding fast that they are not capable of doing it and the people will not be fooled by it anyway. I believe that, very soon, unannounced secret negotiations between the IRI and the US will start (option 4)—if they have not started already. These negotiations may prolong the IRI’s existence for a time but not indefinitely.  Eventually, they will again try violence (option 2) followed by giving up power (option 3).

History is in the making in Iran. As the 40th year of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution approaches, we are seeing the end of this regime. Much is happening in Iran today politically, socially, and spiritually. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.

Location Iran. Green pin on the map.
Much is happening these days in Iran.

There is much news daily about Iran. Following the news carefully and being constantly and directly in touch with the people of Iran has given me a perspective that might be helpful to those who want to understand what is going on. So each day for the next week, I will provide a short commentary on What is happening in Iran.


Next up: How will a regime change in Iran affect the underground church? 

What Is the United States Doing about Iran?

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series What Is Happening in Iran?

What Is Happening in Iran?—Part 3

Power of democracy

What Is the United States Doing?


This post is part 3 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click hereIf you missed the earlier posts, you can read them here: part 1 and part 2.

Trump and his administration are following three main plans to push out the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI):

Pressure with sanctions. The US is putting more financial pressure on the already pressured government of Iran through sanctions and an oil embargo. Trump may talk of violence, but he will not enter into a full-fledged war with Iran because all he needs to do is just wait for sanctions to effectively destroy the IRI.

Approach Iran from a point of strength. Trump’s constant threat to engage in military action puts extra pressure on the IRI. Iran’s government knows its military is no match for the power of the USA and Israel. They know that if a war starts, their people will not support them as they did in the eight-year war against Saddam in the 1980s. Obama negotiated from a point of weakness: he begged Iran not to start a war and bribed it merely to slow down its development of nuclear bombs. But Trump approaches the IRI from a point of strength. Many Iranians living inside Iran are pleased with and support Trump’s approach because they feel Obama threw the IRI a lifeline to survive, but Trump has pulled it back.

Keep open the possibility of negotiation. Trump says he is open to negotiation but wants Iran to take the first step. Trump is a strong negotiator—as shown in his book The Art of the Deal—and knows the one who first breaks down and asks for a meeting has a weaker position in negotiation.

Location Iran. Green pin on the map.
Much is happening these days in Iran.

 


History is in the making in Iran. As the 40th year of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution approaches, we are seeing the end of this regime. Much is happening in Iran today politically, socially, and spiritually. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.

There is much news daily about Iran. Following the news carefully and being constantly and directly in touch with the people of Iran has given me a perspective that might be helpful to those who want to understand what is going on. So each day this week, I will provide a short commentary on What is happening in Iran.


 

Next up: Does the IRI have any options for survival?

What Is Happening with Iran’s Government?

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series What Is Happening in Iran?

 


This post is part 2 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click hereIf you missed part 1, you can read it here.

History is in the making in Iran. As the 40th year of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution approaches, we are seeing the end of this regime. Much is happening in Iran today politically, socially, and spiritually. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.

Location Iran. Green pin on the map.
Much is happening these days in Iran.

There is much news daily about Iran. Following the news carefully and being constantly and directly in touch with the people of Iran has given me a perspective that might be helpful to those who want to understand what is going on. So each day for the next week, I will provide a short commentary on What is happening in Iran.

 


Part 2: What Is Happening with Iran’s Government?

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is in trouble. It is facing problems that cannot solve even if it decides to do so. 

The IRI has totally lost its credibility with the people of Iran. Nobody trusts the government anymore, and there is nothing they can do to win back that trust. Even reforms will not work at this point. Every move and decision of the government is looked at with suspicion and is rejected as “another ploy to deceive us.”

It is facing financial troubles. Mismanagement of the country’s income; widespread embezzlements; an 80 percent loss of its money value; and an overcommitment to helping Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and Yemen has drained the government’s cash. It is struggling to meet its monthly payroll. 

Sanctions will add pressure. Even without the sanctions, the IRI is in big trouble. The sanctions that started this week and the oil embargo starting in November will yet be another big financial hit and will speed up the downward spiral of its demise. 

The people no longer support this regime. In the previous round of sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, the government’s rhetoric was, “America is our enemy and wants to destroy us by sanctions. So if you are under financial pressure, it is the United State’s fault. Let us be united and suffer in silence so that we will not let our enemy USA win.” This approach no longer works. Today, the people say, “We are in trouble because of you and not the US. America is not our enemy, you are.” Many Iranians even support the sanctions saying, “Yes, we are willing to suffer a little more from sanctions because it will bring down the government faster!”

Flags at sunset Iran
Tehran skyline at sunset Photo by Borna Mirahmadian

Sunset is fast approaching for this regime. Its members will try to present a calm face to the world, but its day of power is almost over.


Next up: how the actions of the United States are hastening the fall of Iran’s government.

What Is Happening with Iran’s People?

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series What Is Happening in Iran?

What Is Happening in Iran?

History is in the making in Iran. As the 40th year of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution approaches, we are seeing the end of this regime. Much is happening in Iran today politically, socially, and spiritually. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.

Location Iran. Green pin on the map.
Much is happening these days in Iran.

There is much news daily about Iran. Following the news carefully and being constantly and directly in touch with the people of Iran has given me a perspective that might be helpful to those who want to understand what is going on. So each day for the next week, I will provide a short commentary on What is happening in Iran.


This post is part 1 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click here

Part 1: What Is Happening with Iran’s People?

Since December 2017, citizens have protested almost daily on the streets of many Iranian cities. These protests are intensifying. What is the main reason people protest, knowing that they may be arrested or even killed? It is the economy. 

Iran is a rich country. It has the second largest gas reserves and fourth largest oil reserves in the world. But corruption and mismanagement have deteriorated the economy to a point where millions struggle to meet basic necessities such as bread, milk, eggs, and meat. Many cities have no water or electricity during this hot summer. The unemployment rate is high and jobs so scarce that even those with higher education have no jobs. People with master’s and doctorate degrees are willing to drive cabs and wash dishes in a restaurant, but they cannot find even that work. 

One thousand Iranian rials on a dinner spoon
The rial has lost nearly 80 percent of its value in the past year, and the middle class can’t make ends meet.

Last week, the Iranian Parliament admitted that 50 percent of the population is under the poverty line. Others put that number at 80 percent. 

Why are the people of Iran so angry?

Terrorism prioritized over people. They are angry because they see that their government is not using its income to build its economy but to finance its agenda in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and Yemen. People get angry when they see money spent to help Syrian Bashar Al-Asad stay in power. They get angry when they see their government helping the needy children in Palestine and Lebanon but not in Iran. 

Unchecked government corruption. They get angry when almost weekly for the last three years, they have heard about multimillion-dollar embezzlements by government officials. (After the removal of sanctions by the Obama administration, the government saw a sudden jump in its income, which fueled many large embezzlements by well-known government officials.) What makes the people even angrier is that these government officials have not been prosecuted but keep their positions. Yet, a thief’s hand is amputated for a small crime. 

Religious double standards. They get angry when they see that the government’s morality police prosecutes the people over the slightest infraction of dress code, but the children of those in power host illegal parties (posting clips on social media) with no consequences. The people see that double standard and get mad when they see a teenage girl publicly prosecuted on television because she posted a clip of herself on Instagram dancing.

Vast economic inequality. They get angry when they see the lifestyle of those in power and their families. They see many Maseratis and Lamborghinis on the streets of Tehran, they see other luxurious trappings of the few in power, they look at themselves struggling with basic necessities, and they get angry.


Next week: Learn more about Iran’s government, Iran’s church, what the United States is doing, and what you can do in these historic days to make a difference in our world.

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.