Protests in Iran: the crackdown, a missing Christian activist and the aftermath

By January 24, 2020

Iran (MNN) – Iran’s protests felt like a revolution was in the wind.

The protestors seemed to be bolder, more focused, and overall, observers thought that what was happening in Iran reflected a shift in the Middle East of growing anger and intolerance of injustice.

What started as the mourning of a national hero, a beloved general quickly transformed into anti-government fury as Iran admitted to accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian airliner.

The government’s denial and cover-up just added fuel to the anger over corruption, economic stagnation, and mismanagement. After all, these were the same issues behind the November protests.  This time around, people were calling for Ayatollah Khamenei to step down. The next step he takes, as Supreme Leader, determines whether the uprising turns into a real revolution.

The crackdown begins

ashura in iran

(Wikimedia Commons)

Past responses to quash the demonstrations included an active military and police response, which led to violent clashes.  Although not everyone connected to the opposition wants the same thing, the shame Iranians suffered over the Ukrainian plane crash seems to keep them focused for the time being.

(Article18/Twitter @Marymohammadii)

There’ve been sweeping arrests of the ‘troublemakers’ to try to regain control.  On January 12, while protests were taking place in Tehran, police arrested Christian activist Mary Fatemeh Mohammadi. Since her arrest, her whereabouts remain unknown.

Heart 4 Iran’s Mike Ansari says the ministry, “strongly condemns the arrest of Mary Fatemeh Mohammadi, a Christian human rights activist.”  Last year, she faced several challenges as a result of her converting from Islam to Christianity and sharing her faith. Ansari explains that “Mary is among a large number of Iranians who have converted from Islam to Christianity.   These are Iranian citizens who are seeking ways to promote religious freedom and human rights in the face of real danger.”

Christians targeted in Iran

Recognizing the pressure on Christians, Open Doors ranked Iran as 9th in the 2020 World Watch List, an annual study that ranks the 50 countries where it is most challenging to profess and practice the Christian faith.

Why are Christians so heavily persecuted in Iran? The leaders view Christianity as a Western influence and a threat to the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Ansari explains, “Iranian Islamic Republic’s survival is threatened when they lose their Muslim population to Christianity. “ Disillusionment’s followed the crises beleaguering Iran, which means people are searching for hope. In 2019, Heart 4 Iran registered over 60,000 online decisions by Iranian people who converted to Christianity.  “Our staff prayed with over 3500 additional Iranians who gave their heart to Jesus in 2019.  These trends cannot be ignored because they are indicative of a large, mass transformation of a country.”

(Screenshot of Prayercast | Iran)

Despair leads to search for hope

Ansari adds that for its size, Iran is home to the fasting growing Church in the world. “That is something they are not going to take lightly. That is why the Iranian judicial system deems all Christian activities as actions against national security and propaganda against the system.”

Since Iran’s constitution establishes the country as an Islamic State, it regards ethnic Persians as Muslims.  Therefore, it is illegal to produce Christian literature or hold church services in Farsi. If an ethnic Persian becomes apostate (leaves Islam), that offense is punishable by the death penalty, though more likely to be seen as crimes against national security’.

As protests continue and the crackdown broadens, Ansari urges the body of Christ to, “Please pray for Mary’s safety as her whereabouts are still unknown. Please pray for countless Iranian converts that lack legitimization or recognition by their own country.” Ultimately, he invites everyone to join him in praying for true religious freedom in Iran.

Headline photo: Demonstrations in Iran over the death of Qaseem Soleimani during the US attack on the Baghdad airport in Iraq.
(Wikimedia Commons)

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