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.

Terror in the US

Last year, in the months approaching Thanksgiving, I travelled extensively and spoke at many churches and conferences. One thing I said over and over was this: “I hope I am wrong, but soon we will see ISIS sleeping cells in the western countries and the U.S. start their terrorist activities.” It turned out that this prediction came true sooner than even I thought, first in Paris, and then in the United States.

 

The Paris attack and last month’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, has made even more clear the global strategy of the Islamic State (ISIS).San_Bernardino_shooting_suspect_vehicle
They are calling on all sympathizers and sleeper cells to carry out lethal assaults in the West. They want everyone to know that no one is beyond their reach.

 

The overwhelming result of these attacks is a rising fear about terrorism. According to polls, fear has reached a level not seen since the aftermath of 9/11. Such fear gives excuse to political frontrunners like Donald Trump to exercise hatred toward an entire people group. And many leaders and citizens are following in his footsteps. When they do this, they are handing a victory to the prince of darkness.

 

Satan’s plan through ISIS is to put fear in our hearts and foster hatred towards all Muslims so that we do not reach out to them. Sometimes, I can hear his dark voice saying, “They (Muslims) are mine, do not touch them. Fear and hate Muslims. Because if you love them, you will steal my captives from me.”

 

On the other hand, some do not take the threat of terrorism seriously enough. We see this position from political leaders that follow President Obama. They count low-level terrorism as an unavoidable necessity in our world full of “radical fringe” groups. It happens, they say, but not as often as car crashes, shark attacks, or lightening strikes. Fear of terrorism is overrated.

 

Peter Baker, a New York Times news analyst, recently showed this low view of imminent danger in a summary of President Obama’s off-the record comments: “He would send significant numbers of [ground] forces to the Middle East . . . only in the event of a terrorist attack in the United States so catastrophic that it all but paralyzed the country with fear.” The president apparently does not feel that there is a high probability of such a catastrophic event.

 

ISIS and other Muslim groups/nations do have a political agenda. Islam does actively promote the use of fear and terror to spread both its spiritual and political borders. We see this regularly in Iran, not only in the government’s persecution of Christians and its own Muslims but also in Iran’s continued launching of banned missiles despite last year’s nuclear deal and its continued support of Shi’ite terror regimes (such as Hezbollah and the Houthis) in the Middle East.

 

Yes, it is right to be wise about our borders, but not by hating a group of people both within and without. Terrorism from foreigners and domestic sleeping cells, such as the recent New Year’s Eve attacks on women in Cologne, Germany, will continue until we make some changes. Shunning Muslims is not the answer. Embracing them and allowing love to transform them is.

 

The real solution to terrorism and fear is to reach beyond our borders to people who are disillusioned with Islam and Islamic governments, to those who are more open to the Gospel of peace than at any other time in history.

 

God is at work in Iran and among the flood of refugees from Syria and Iraq. He is bringing hearts to Him and breaking down “the barrier of the dividing wall” between Christians and those born captives of Islam (Eph. 2:14, NASB). We must remember that, once, we too lived “according to the prince” of darkness and were “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:2, 3).

 

We must be cautious, but we must not fear or hate. God calls us to love Muslims so much that we are willing to share life with those who know only death—the life of the Gospel.

 

Won’t you pray for how God wants you to love Muslims this year? Steal Satan’s captives! Prevent more terror by helping bring Muslims to Christ in Iran, in America, and everywhere.

Related Articles:

Howell Jr., Tom. “Chris Coons, Delaware Senator, Calls on White House to Punish Iran.” The Washington Times.

 

Baker, Peter. “Balancing Terror and Reality in State of the Union Address.” The New York Times, January 11, 2016.

Obeidallah, Dean. “Donald Trump’s Horrifying Words about Muslims (Opinion) – CNN.com.” CNN. Accessed January 12, 2016.