From every level of society in over 90 cities the nation of Iran is calling for the removal of the ruling Islamic clerics; such boldness and courage is remarkable. One member of the Iranian parliament (Majlis) has said that so far in 13 days, over 3,700, mainly young people under 25, have been arrested and taken to prison. At least two have been said to have committed suicide and over 40 have been killed on the streets in several cities.
People are crying, fearless of any recrimination! Many young people say that they were born under the current Islamic rule and that they have witnessed much, have suffered immensely and cannot take anymore!
As we see what is happening in Iran, many threads are unraveling in this tapestry of events. It is a complex situation, but here are some of our thoughts about the main issues:
a. On The Social Front
For many years the power brokers in this regime have been acting like bandits. They have robbed people of their livelihoods, cheating and scheming without shame or retribution. In one example, a huge semi-governmental construction project, which began during Ahmadinejad's tenure as President, lured tens of thousands of people from across the country to invest the equivalent of $50,000 to over $200,000. The whole scheme collapsed and these investors lost all of their money. Local demonstrations in many cities were silenced by vain promises. By the same token, even banks have been targeting vulnerable individuals and cheating them out of their investments. I am privy to many sad stories affecting the lives of ordinary people.
Many Iranians, who now live outside the country, have faced the loss of their property through schemes that have produced fake title deeds for their houses. These fake deeds are then used to sell the properties with no recourse for the real owners. Those who then visit their properties find the locks on their properties have been changed and new owners installed; many sad stories abound. Is there anywhere in the world where the government is so blatantly involved in what amounts to theft – and this is for profit of individuals, not the state! The ‘Bonyade Imam’ (Khomeini) Foundation, under direct control of Supreme Leader Khamenei, has amassed a fortune of over $60 billion, from sources that include the sale of stolen properties!
Prices for ordinary goods have been increased significantly. The poor are increasingly being driven to destitution while they witness such extravagance amongst the cronies of the regime and the families of the Ayatollahs! We have real stories of believers facing exorbitant hospital expenses for operations. The costs mean that some Iranians have had to resort to selling their organs, in some cases it has been one of their kidneys and even an eye, so that they can save the life of a loved one. Nowhere else in the world is the sale of human organs openly supervised by Muslim clerics.
Every year over 200,000 young people graduate from universities in Iran. However, there are very few job opportunities (a main complaint expressed by the protesters) and this discontent and frustration has become a ticking time bomb in Iran.
The regime’s clumsy response to the recent earthquake in the Kermanshah region has prompted a significant reaction. The earthquake showed the vulnerability of a number of buildings constructed by the government in the recent years, where owners purchased their dream homes by investing all their life savings! Poor construction has highlighted the prevalence of corrupt practices. The regime’s failure to respond to these fears has eroded people's confidence, and ultimately could possibly prove to be the last straw. Local papers have reported that 17 people so far have committed suicide!
This earthquake has also provoked concern about the catastrophic consequences if an earthquake were to strike Tehran; geologists state that such an event is expected at some stage. At 222 we have looked at the scientific background to these fears and published articles about this on FCNN. Tehran is on an earthquake fault line, its geological structure is highly vulnerable, and the consequences of an earthquake in Tehran would be catastrophic. Here is a current article on the potential catastrophic damage resulting from an earthquake affecting Tehran on Brianiselin.
b. On the Domestic Political Front
Billions of dollars were plundered during the time of Ahmadinejad’s Presidency. Several times the Chief Justice has announced that there were seven major cases to be brought against him and his immediate circle, including Moshayee, Baghayee and Javanfekr. In the meantime, as the Rouhani government, led by the Justice Department, have been closing the circle around Ahmadinejad, he has reacted by accusing the Larijani brothers of dictatorship! This is his way of creating chaos to draw attention away from his prosecution. Some believe he has even had a part in inciting, or the least encouraging, the recent protests and riots.
The Rouhani government has become fed up with the Revolutionary Guards who are responsible for over 80% of illegal smuggling of goods through the country’s southern ports and airports, which are under their sole control! This smuggling deprives the government of billions of dollars of income from taxes and customs duties. For some time the Revolutionary Guards have been effectively conducting a coup d’etat as every branch of government has in essence been brought under their control. They have their own prisons, intelligence, powers for any arrest, their own banks, communications, shipping, control of airports and ports; they even have their own hospitals and universities. In this battle Rouhani does not have much leverage.
To create an excuse to demonstrate their power, the Guards have infiltrated the ranks of the protestors, spying on them and turning against them. Yet there have been many slogans shouted on the streets that have not been heard before in the 38 years of the Islamic Republic, including ‘Death to Khamenei’, ‘Death to Rouhani’, ‘End the Islamic Arab Republic’, ‘We want a Republic of Iran not a Republic of Islam’. The belief is that the Guards initially tried to join the ranks of the protestors to incite trouble and the destruction of property, so that they could sound an alarm amongst the pillars of power to get the 'National Security Council' to support intervention by the Guards’, as happened in 2009. President Rouhani and his supporters are against such brutal repetition. But at the same time the slogans that are said to have been introduced by the have emboldened the discontented young people. The brutality and craftiness of the regime has been shown with the numbers of those arrested and they will face dire consequences!
There are other strands in domestic politics, for example amongst many the Deputy Speaker of the Majlis, Ali Motahari has made some sharp comments. The power structure is experiencing the signs of many deepening fractures.
c. On the External Political Front
Everyone on the streets of Iran is aware of the Israeli, US, and Saudi alliance that aims to topple the Islamic Republic regime; this is quite significant. In the past four decades, no other event has received such detailed, consistent and insightful coverage internationally!
In recent days statements from President Trump have joined the comments of several US Senators, agreeing about the situation in Iran; these contrast starkly with what has been seen over the past year. On the international relations front, Iran now has few allies, besides Russia, whereas the Arab states would rejoice in a change as they have become fed up with the expansionist policies of Islamic Iran. There have been a number of 'tipping points', including what was clearly an Iranian missile being launched into Riyadh.
The fact remains that there is no united and strong opposition to the Islamic rulers in Iran.
Probably the most structured and well-organized opposition is the ‘Iran National Council’ (which was moved forcibly from Baghdad to Tirana, Albania). It has an Islamic/socialist ideology, which is not appreciated by many inside and outside of Iran. It claims to have trained fighters as sleeper cells in Iran, and have thousands of seasoned fighters overseas. They seem to be ready to march in when needed. More recently three US Senators visited the Iran National Council in Tirana! The INC has powerful backers, including Senator John McCain and former Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani. By the same token Crown Prince Reza has recently become more vocal and optimistic about the possibility of a regime change. He has devoted all his life in exile to spearheading this cause.
d. Impact on the Church and How to Pray and Prepare
Whether a change happens now or is, as in the past, quashed ruthlessly, it will only delay the tipping point! The word of God says whoever takes a sword will fall by a sword. Such brutality will not last forever and history is a clear proof of this. We believe a change will eventually take place, ideally through peaceful means or most regrettably through much bloodshed. We in 222 Ministries are praying and interceding for God’s mercy upon our beloved nation.
It is sad that the church inside the country does not have strong leaders, as any voice is silenced by the regime. This has been systematic, gradual and well planned by the rulers in Iran over four decades. The leaders outside are keen on evangelism and discipleship of individuals, but I have not heard anyone speak about Godly, pertinent and practical leadership in such times of national Crisis! The Kingdom of God is all about transformation and leadership. Throughout time God has raised individuals and gifted them with extraordinary mandates to change the course of history. Daniel was such an example at the court of the Iranian King. His tomb in Iran is a witness to this amazing incident. We in 222 pray for a rise of Godly destiny makers, in the mould of Daniel and Esther, who can exercise divine wisdom and Godly gifting to lead, bless and expand His church, and be sought for their wisdom by the ‘rulers’.
Although there are definitely more than 500,000 confessing believers in Iran (and several argue it is over one million), they are fragmented and repressed. Their hope is to have a clear sense of direction, including even a clear understanding of what to pray for! Christians have not been venturing onto the streets in these protests, not so much because of fear or lack of concern, but because they have been pushed aside and marginalized across all strata of society and their basic rights have been downtrodden. However, we are seeing a sense of unity in their prayers as they ask God: 'Lord, let Your Kingdom come and Let Your will be done'.
My own concern is that if darkness prevails and evil wins, Iran will experience a bloodbath and fragmentation of the country. To avoid this, we should know what we need to pray for and unite to bring this prayer before the Lord. Also, I strongly believe there should be greater and more immediate investment in three timely initiatives, to advance and accelerate our preparedness:
- First and foremost is the 'Virtual Church', PCC (Persian Community Church), to provide a means to draw together those who are scattered and isolated; anticipating this huge need we have been practicing and preparing since late 2016. Note that one fishes where the fish congregate! There are 40 million Telegram subscribers in Iran and on average young people spend eight hours a day on the social media.
- Second, we should support the huge ministry opportunities in Turkey which can have an immediate impact on friends and family in Iran, as well as leading to the planting of new churches. If the repression continues thousands of disillusioned young people will arrive in Turkey as refugees, which will create an enormous opportunity. In any case in March 2018 over 300,000 Iranian tourists are expected in Turkey; we want to share the good news with them.
- Third, we should invest in producing and broadcasting relevant, practically engaging TV programs. Regrettably, many Farsi Christian TV programs are completely disconnected with the realities in Iran and few new programs are emerging. In the past 222 has produced a series titled “So What’s Next?” It is a discussion led by ex-Vice Minister of The Islamic Guidance (propaganda) Ministry of Iran, Rev Mohammad Modabber!
Currently, Iranians, glued to social media and foreign TV screens, cannot find practical, relevant, moral, spiritual, guidance from Christian TV. For the reasons we have explained above, Christians seem to be absent from what is happening in the current situation in Iran. Having said this, we find very few churches or Christian organizations in the West to be interested to be actively supportive of Christians in Iran. If we don't invest, engage and prepare now, we are liable to be washed away by the unfolding tsunami of events.
‘If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.’
2 Chronicles 7:14
It is for us as Christians to stand in unity and call upon the Lord to forgive the sins of our rulers, our people, our nation and HEAL our land!
e. Final Thoughts
Finally, like the natural forest fires that have been raging in California, no matter who started this fire, or how it was started, the fact is that it has become uncontrollable. If we as Christians are prepared, it would give us the most unique opportunity to exercise Daniel wisdom and Godly leadership, to earn the trust and respect not only of Iranian Christians but the disillusioned masses struggling to live out their lives inside the country. We will bring about transformation from darkness to light, from oppression to Christ’s Freedom! Otherwise, we will be reduced to becoming mere bystanders, incapable of Godly and timely intervention, hence losing the legitimacy, respect and thus acceptance of all strata of society in Iran.
As we have always shared ‘not praying is tragic, yet not preparing is catastrophic’! Let’s pray & prepare, understanding the gravity of the time!