Iran, the protests, and a changing tide

By January 16, 2020

Iran (MNN) – Protests in Iran are different in the wake of the Ukrainian jetliner strike.

They seem to be fueled by something more. A Reuters report noted the rage, fueled by Iran’s initial denial of the accidental missile strike. Now, protestors direct their anger at Ali Khamenei, their Supreme leader. Moreover, the crowd began shouting, ‘Our enemy is here,’ even as they demanded that Khamenei step down.

It’s an interesting time for Iran, observes Samuel of Redemptive Stories, a ministry to the Middle East and North Africa. “I think that this is a new tipping point that might begin to push towards a new wave of revolution in that country.” As someone who lives and works in the Middle East, he considers himself a student of the culture.

Saving face

A mural in the holy city of Qom depicts Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, on the left and Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader of Iran, on the right. (Photo/Caption courtesy of David Stanley via Flicker

He believes the threat of war between the U.S. and Iran appeared to be nothing more than saber-rattling.  In the wake of a U.S. strike that took out Iran’s top military leader, Iran’s threats increased tensions significantly. As the U.S. responded by putting its military on high alert, Iran retaliated.  However, Samuel says, “The strikes that happened on U-S bases in Iraq smack of Iran just wanting to save face. They just wanted to return their honor after they were attacked.”

As the dust settled and everyone backed down from the war of words, Iran shot down a Ukrainian plane, killing all aboard. Although officials were forced to admit the incident was an accident, the people’s response went a different direction.

Instead of supporting the government, “The protests that are taking place right now are just a response to the shame that the people feel about what has happened to these international individuals that were shot down.”

Behind the protests in Iran

Riot police soon engaged with protestors. Teargas clouds hovered over the masses, but when police miscalculated and shot demonstrators, the mood turned dangerous. “I think you’re absolutely seeing that people are now beginning to open their eyes to see.  The Middle East, in general, has a long history of paying protesters to  create crowds.”

As unruly as the crowds are, will their fury result in Khamenei acceding to their demand? Samuel believes that highly unlikely. Again, especially due to the honor/shame culture, leader seem backed into a corner. “The situation there is a unique one where you have a religious leader at the top. Because of that, I don’t see that ever occurring (to see him step down) without real revolution; there might be in-fighting again.”

Looking for someone to blame

(Screenshot of Prayercast | Iran)

However, it becomes a dangerous time for minorities in Iran, Samuel says. “They’re going to blame some small faction or and Christians will certainly be part of that.  They will use this as an impetus to round them up and persecute them.”

Why would the government of Iran view Christians as a threat? “The Church is growing like wildfire there. So they will use this as an opportunity to persecute the Church, and they will use some scapegoat to deflect the dishonor to them.”

Observing the situation, Samuel says what the body of Christ needs now is fervent prayer on their behalf. “Don’t look at them as the ‘other,’ but look at them as particularly believing brothers and sisters,” he explains, urging that we pray for their perseverance. “Pray for opportunities for the Church to stand out, to rise up, and to boldly proclaim the Message in the midst of all of this struggle.”



(Headline photo courtesy 8thirty8)

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