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 Started the 2018 Demonstrations in Iran?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Understanding the 2018 Iran Uprising

In the final days of December, Iranians took to the streets in protest against the government and shouted, “Death to the dictator” (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) and “Death to Rouhani” (the president). Through this first week of 2018, demonstrations have erupted in nearly every province in Iran.


The main cause for these demonstrations? The economic pain and desperation of the people. In the past six months, about 30 percent of our incoming prayer requests from Iran have been related to the economic situation. One of our viewers shared last week that she and her husband are so financially desperate that they were considering selling their three-month-old baby to human traffickers!

Basic Goods out of Reach for the People

In recent months, the price of some basic goods like dairy products, meat, eggs, and gas has risen sharply. For the past two years, many families in Iran had to cut their consumption of meat to once per month. Now they cannot even afford that. Forget meat; now they cannot afford milk, cheese, or eggs.

While the Corrupt Elite Enriches Itself

What makes the people’s pain worse and makes them even more angry and frustrated are the following realities:

The religious elite controls the economy. More than 85 percent of the economy is controlled by those in power (the clergy and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard). The people see this as the elite taking advantage of the common people so even though they are rich, they can be richer.

Corruption within the government continues freely. Every month the people hear news of large embezzlement by those within the government—but no arrests or accountability. While common people continue to suffer, those in power steal the oil income and store it in foreign banks. They steal instead of investing that money in the country’s economy because maybe they also see that their end is near.

The powerful live in luxurious abundance. Daily, the people see the elite living in luxury homes and driving luxury cars—more Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Maserati’s travel the streets in Tehran than in Beverly Hills.

More than a quarter of the country is unemployed. The unemployment stated by the government is 12 percent, but in reality, more than 25 percent are unemployed. Unemployment among young adults is as high as 40 percent. Noticeable segments of society in their 30s and even 40s are educated (often highly) but have no jobs—not even low-level jobs such as driving taxis. They still live with their parents, cannot find jobs, and cannot get married. They battle a hopelessness with deep depression that they often relieve temporarily with some addiction. Most families in Iran are impacted by addiction because at least one close family member (father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister) is addicted. Unemployment and addiction are prime causes for people being on the streets, the majority of these people being under 30 years old.

The children of the elite “inherit” the best paying jobs. The people have seen that those in power have the best paying jobs—and now the elite are passing on these jobs to their kids, a generation of spoiled children with no education. Children of the powerful receive a job without earning it while millions with education cannot make a living.

The Islamic government cares more for supporting regional allies than its own people. The people now see that the Islamic government has no heart for the suffering of its own but spends millions of dollars monthly to help Hezbollah in Lebanon and President Assad in Syria. They know that the government is spending large sums of money to take control of Yemen and Iraq. They were hoping that the $150 billion that Obama administration gave Iran’s government would benefit them, but as I predicted in 2015 and again in 2016, the windfall did not benefit them but was used instead to oppress them and persecute Christians even more.

What Can You Do?

Throughout this time of unrest, we have broadcast live every evening during prime time to share God’s heart and mind with the people. They are crying out in pain and looking for answers. Would you pray that millions will hear and receive God’s love and concern for their suffering?

In the next few days, I will be posting more on this issue. I will let you know what I expect will be the outcome of this mass demonstration, what the differences are between this uprising and the Green Movement of 2009, and yes, how this uprising will help Christians and the cause of Christ in Iran—at least for the short term.

If you wish to read more stories and stay up to date on issues in Iran and with our ministry at Iran Alive, please text “Iran” to 74784.

Related articles:

Erdbrink, Thomas. “Hard-Liners and Reformers Tapped Iranians’ Ire. Now, Both Are Protest Targets.” The New York Times, January 2, 2018, sec. Middle East.

Lister, Tim. “Protests Die down, but the Anger in Iran Won’t Go Away.” CNN. Accessed January 5, 2018.

Shariat, Hormoz. “Lifeline from Nuclear Deal Helps Iran Oppress Its Own People.” June 2, 2016.

Shariat, Hormoz. “The Nuclear Agreement with Iran: Is It a Good or a Bad Deal? (Part 2).” September 22, 2015.

President Rouhani’s Visit to the U.S. Represents No Real Change

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series 5 Things About Hassan Rouhani's Visit to the U.S.

President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to the U.S., while historic, represents no real change in the Iranian government since the Supreme Leader and Islamic clergy rule and run the country.

In this short video, I discuss why President Rouhani is simply a different face on the same political system that has been in place in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  Regardless of who is elected president, the simple fact is the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, makes every high level policy decision and will never abdicate that power to anyone else until his replacement has been named, likely upon his own death.

Pray that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus and truly lead a transformation of Iran unlike anything we have ever seen.

Rouhani Publicly Released 11 Political Prisoners Just Days Before His Visit

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series 5 Things About Hassan Rouhani's Visit to the U.S.

Rouhani publicly released 11 political prisoners just days before his visit to the U.S., but has released zero since then.

Nasrin Sotoudeh with her family after being released from prison
Nasrin Sotoudeh with her family after her release

Only days prior to his visit to the U.S. and subsequent U.N. address, President Hassan Rouhani ordered the release of 11 political prisoners.  8 women, including noted human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and 3 men were freed from prison or house arrest sentences stemming from anti-government activities.

I am certainly thankful for the release of these men and women, regardless of the motives behind this obvious public relations maneuver.  Without doubt, their families are celebrating this unexpected blessing, as they should. I know the many hundreds of other families with loved ones in Iranian prisons are fervently praying for similar news to come their way in the near future.  I am joining them in prayer for this outcome as well.

If past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, however, I fear that these families may be in for a lengthy wait.  I truly pray that I am wrong.

What I do know is that the prisons are absolutely stuffed with offenders whose crimes are markedly similar to the 11 recently released.  This is not even beginning to consider our Christian brothers and sisters who are languishing in jail cells since their faith in Christ is viewed as a direct transgression against Islam and the government, since the two are not only inseparable, they are one and the same.

Please join me in praising the Lord for the release of the 11 prisoners on September 18.  Let us pray together that this is just the tip of the iceberg for many hundreds to follow in spite of what history seems to indicate.

Rouhani Gained the Upper Hand by Skipping Lunch with President Obama

Rouhani gained the upper hand by skipping lunch with President Obama and later receiving his phone call while leaving the country.

To a Westerner, both of these events may seem insipid or commonplace.

Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during his visit to the U.S.

President Rouhani simply explained, “A meeting between the two presidents needs some preparation, and since the ground was not prepared, this meeting did not take place.”  As a result, President Obama picked up the phone and called Rouhani since they were not able to meet in person.  This gesture exhibited both respect and hospitality from a Western point of view.

However, both events, which seem ostensibly harmless, were great PR plays by Rouhani to the Persian culture.

By skipping a planned appointment with President Obama, Rouhani illustrated his stature of importance to the people of Iran and the rest of the Middle East whose culture recognizes this as a display of power.  Rouhani is so mighty and dominant, that even the President of the United States of America does not get his time.

By calling President Rouhani as he was leaving the U.S., President Obama displayed an act of contrition and weakness in the eyes of the Persian culture.  In my native Iran, this is viewed as chasing after the person who is in the more dominant position.

Rouhani would never have extended such a gesture, as he would be subject to public emasculation and humiliation for bowing in this way.

Our opinions of a skipped lunch and the intentions of President Obama’s phone call are completely irrelevant.  President Hassan Rouhani left the United States with an important public relations victory on the largest stage Iran has been on in 34 years.

I wonder if President Obama is going to take Benjamin Netanyahu’s call…the one when he tells Obama to be wary of his new “friend.”