Protests in Iran smolder

By November 22, 2019

Iran (MNN) – It took less than a week to quell Iran.

Last weekend, the country erupted into protests. Peter Smith, a spokesman with Global Catalytic Ministries, explains, “The government of Iran chose to triple the price of fuel. The next morning, people began to riot in the streets.”

Imam Reza shrine, Mashad, Iran (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia/CC)

Smith says the price hike took people off-guard because “President Rouhani of Iran announced that they had just found a major oil reserve. And so here it is, in the morning, he’s making this big announcement. Then at night, they’re putting on the new price changes for the gas that people have to buy for their vehicle.” The clashes morphed from anger over prices to rage over government corruption.

Iran sent in security forces. When the smoke cleared, over 100 people died, and police arrested or injured more than 3,000 protestors across 100 cities. To keep the stories and photos from getting to the outside world, the government cut off phone and internet service during the worst of the riots. Then came the arrests.

Did protesting help?

(Photo courtesy of th_tsai/Flickr/CC)

By Wednesday last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared victory over foreign enemies in regaining control of the streets. How similar is this situation to that of the “Green Revolution” of 2009? Unfortunately, similar enough in the outcome, notes Smith. “That did not turn into anything that helped the average person on the street.”

Combined with rising inflation, growing unemployment, a slump in the rial, and state corruption, this latest proclamation was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Smith explains, “With U-S sanctions, they already have to pay more for food. For example, like a bag of apples went from like $10 a bag to now it’s almost $250 per bag of apples. Things like meat and rice, which are staples for Persian homes, people can’t afford to buy food like they used to.”

Now layer on the impact of the fuel hike. “Let’s say in your part of the U-S, you pay $2 and 50 cents for a gallon of gas. And now the next morning, it’s $7 and 50 cents a gallon. That’s going to wake you up, and you’re not going to be very pleased with that. Short term, unless you get a pay increase your job, you’re just going to have to pay more for fuel.”  That’s everyday life for Iranians, many of whom are already working two or three jobs.

Assigning blame in Iran

In turbulent times, minorities also face increased scrutiny as scapegoats for current troubles. In Iran, Christians are minorities. The government sees them as an attempt by Western countries to undermine Islam and the Islamic regime of Iran. In other words, they’re a threat to national security.  

(Photo courtesy of Global Catalytic Ministries)

When asked how a clampdown might affect them, Smith said, “I think what’s happening among a number of house church movements is they’re just waiting to see what happens with the protests. But they’re also anticipating they may need some new strategies to reach out to people because of the unrest. One way that your listeners here in the US can pray is for wisdom and understanding as to how they should respond to the protest.”

Praying into the situation

Since the government also rebranded the civil unrest as a situation of national security, followers of Christ need to be cautious. Ministries like Global Catalytic partner with believers who are passionate about bringing the Gospel to Iran.

Smith makes one last observation: “As we look at church history, there are always times when God works in special ways. Unfortunately, sometimes that includes times of unrest and protest.” In light of uncertain times, Smith urges us to pray for those workers. “Hopefully, in two years, when we look back at this situation that’s happening today, that will hopefully allow us to see some new strategies that God will give us in order to reach more people inside Iran for Christ.”



Headline photo credit: @amadnewsdaily

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