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.
The Current Political Climate of Iran
After 40 years of theocratic rule, the people have changed their political thinking and behavior.
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.