Iran: As repression escalates, Iranians grow restless

General August 21, 2007




By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

Iran's Islamic theocracy was created through the union of Shi'ite activism and
Marxist revolutionary thought. In Iran Christianity is severely repressed.
Citizens who are "born" Christian (non-Persians: traditionally-Christian
ethnic minorities such as Armenians and Assyrians) are "protected" (graciously
permitted to live) as long as they remain subjugated. It is forbidden for
Christians to share their faith, and it is forbidden for a Muslim to change
his religion.

Whilst the 1979 Islamic Revolution promised much, Iran's Shi'ite revolutionary
regime has delivered little but poverty, repression, decline and despair. As
noted in a recent CBN news article by George Thomas, Iranian youths - 70
percent of the population is under the age of 30 - are restless. Amir (not his
real name for he is a convert from Islam) told CBN: "More than 80 percent of
them (Iranian youths) are depressed. They are disappointed. They feel like
they have no future. They are so angry that no good thing has come from the
Islamic revolution."

Another convert tells CBN that Iranian youths feel like Islam only condemns
them, imposes restrictions put on them, and dictates to their life. She says
that mosques that were often filled before the revolution are often empty
today. "The young people say that they don't have any religion, they don't
have any belief. Some of them even say they are not Muslim!"

The CBN article notes that because the traditional ethnic Christian churches
do not (normally) actively seek out new believers, the government tolerates
them. However, the number of evangelicals is growing and these are mostly
Muslim-born Iranians, ethnic Persians, who have converted to Christianity
often as a result of dreams and visions. CBN notes, "For these people, life
is often more challenging. Amir elaborates: 'The price for converting can be
everything. But as Christ said, if you want to be His follower, you have to
forsake all, including your life.'"

Thomas writes: "In the last decade, several Iranian believers have paid the
ultimate price. The majority of those killed were former Muslims. Several
remain behind bars for hiding their conversions to Christianity.

"Despite the challenges, Iranians are more open to the Gospel than ever
before. The Internet and satellite television are giving people greater access
to the message of Christ.

"On a recent Tuesday afternoon, CBN News met a group of young Muslim girls who
talked about their encounters with Jesus. 'I know a lot of Muslims who go to
church,' one said. 'I go there to find peace. I cannot explain this peace to
you.'" (Link 1)

CONVERT LASHED

On 5 May, an Iranian man identified only as A. Sh. was involved in a minor
traffic accident. When the officials from the state security forces (SSF)
searched his car they found both a Bible and a Jesus film in the Farsi
language (the most commonly spoken Persian language).

When A. Sh. confessed to being a Christian, the security agents beat and
arrested him and took him to a holding cell in Detention Centre 102. A. Sh.
was accused of converting from Islam to Christianity and, without any due
legal process, was summarily punished with a savage lashing. He was released
two days later after his family paid bail. A photograph of A. Sh.'s injuries
has been published on the Farsi Christian News Network (Link 2).

"IS IRAN READY FOR CHANGE?"

The desire of all Christians everywhere is that Iranians (and Persian culture)
would have liberty. A hugely interesting and important interview with Dr Assad
Homayoun of the Azadegan Foundation < http://azadeganiran.com/ > has been
published in the International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA) magazine
"Defense and Foreign Affairs, Strategic Policy" (6, 2007).

The interview entitled "Is Iran Ready for Change?" can be found on the
Azadegan website (Link 3).

The interviewer, UN Correspondent Jason Fuchs, describes Dr Homayoun as "one
of the most significant leaders of Iran's exiled nationalist opposition". He
is a "former senior Iranian diplomat currently residing in the United States.
He was in charge of political affairs at the Iranian Embassy in Washington DC
for 12 years and, just before the 1979 revolution, was Minister in Charge of
the Embassy. Dr Homayoun earned his PhD in International Relations at George
Washington University in Washington DC, and served as a professor there, as
well. He is the author of many articles on international, Middle Eastern and
Iranian affairs. He is also a Senior Fellow at the International Strategic
Studies Association (ISSA)."

Dr Homayoun describes the clerical administration in Iran as "an apocalyptic
regime whose leadership is in favour of the advance of radical Islam around
the world; what the clerics officially refer to as the 'export of the Islamic
revolution'". He regards the "reformists" and the "radicals" as "two wings of
the same monster". He says the clerical regime in Tehran regards itself as the
"vanguard forces" of the "true Islam". As such, he believes that compromise is
not possible. "As I see it," says Homayoun, "the rift between the theocratic
regime and the US is as wide as the Khyber Pass and cannot be crossed."

Most interesting is Dr Homayoun's assessment of the current political climate
in Iran. After explaining why he believes that an air strike against Iran's
nuclear facilities would fail to achieve its aims he writes: ". . . some
members of the Iranian leadership are actually hoping for a US military strike
against Iran. There is the belief in some regime circles, particularly around
Pres. Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad and his spiritual mentor, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi,
that the Iranian Islamic Republic's domestic political situation is very
similar now to what it was in 1981. In 1981, it was already possible to see
the cracks in Khomeini's new Iran. Iranians were beginning to see that this
new Iran was not the one they had been promised, and so, only two years after
the 1979 revolution, you saw political unrest and all the indicators that
Iranians wanted change."

[For an example of this see the testimony of Dr Daniel Shayesteh. Daniel was a
co-founder of Iranian Hezballah and a Revolutionary Guard at the time of the
1979 Islamic Revolution. He became a political activist after the revolution,
and this led to his becoming a political refugee in Turkey where the Lord
opened his heart to the gospel. He is now a Christian evangelist. Link 4]

(Homayoun continued.) "This political ferment, this burgeoning anti-regime
sentiment, was quickly anaesthetised when the Iran-Iraq war began that year.
For while Iranians were fast learning to detest their new masters, they
remained proud patriots, proud nationalists, and were not about to allow a
foreign power to defeat it on the battlefield. And so, Iranians rallied around
the flag, as they say in America, and 26 years later they are still stuck with
this regime."

[A contemporary example of this phenomenon occurred in January 2002. Shi'ites
well understand Sunni fundamentalist aggression. Within hours of the 9/11
terror attacks in the US, while Sunni Arabs throughout the Middle East were
celebrating, Iranian civilians were spontaneously taking to the streets to
express solidarity with the Americans. Hundreds joined in candle-light vigils
in Tehran until they were dispersed by the regime which also arrested many.
(See link 5.) On the following Friday, Iranian and Bahreini soccer teams
observed a minute of silence before the start of their match. Since the "Axis
of Evil" designation however, fear that Iran could be attacked has driven
anti-American sentiment that is then further exploited by the anti-American
theocratic revolutionaries holding power.]

(Homayoun continued.) "Pres. Ahmadi-Nejad and his followers are hoping that a
limited US military strike which leaves them in power will have the same
unifying effect and save them at a moment when Iranians are, as they were in
1981, beginning to unify not for the regime, but against it."

Dr Homayoun adds that any attempt to topple the regime by means of sponsoring
ethnic or sectarian unrest will fail, because "the only thing the Iranian
people are more afraid of than their own government is that Iran will become
the next Iraq; that Iran will disintegrate into ethnic or sectarian defined
entities at war with one another.

"The Iranian regime is overwhelmingly unpopular within Iran, but the notion of
the proud Iranian nation being dissolved is universally unpopular. And so,
when Washington or anyone else supports groups that define themselves by their
ethnic or sectarian banners, the Iranian people fear that this will only lead
to the dissolution of their homeland, not its long-overdue liberation. Thus,
such steps are counterproductive. Iran is just like a Persian carpet with
different colours, different designs, but all a part of the same carpet: just
like Iran, one nation, indivisible."

Concerning Iranian hardship Homayoun writes: "The Iranian internal situation
is dire, at levels of hardship and suffering unseen in recent memory. Young
people are unemployed; there is 25 percent unemployment nationally, inflation
is at 22 percent, drugs and prostitution and hunger continue to eat away at
the nation from the inside out and all of this is because of the mismanagement
and corruption of the regime. It is as much a kleptocracy as it is a theocracy.

"Nowhere could politics be more serious than now in Iran where the people
opposed to this regime are, indeed, in the millions. There are close to
50-million young people, possibly more, under the age of 25 [in a population
of 70 million]. The reality is that the regime is in worse shape than ever,
and the people are ready to rise and need only be galvanised."

Elizabeth Kendal
[email protected]

Links

1) Inside Iran: A Rising Chorus
By George Thomas
http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/060711a.aspx
SEE ALSO: Testimonies from the Muslim World
http://www.persianministries.org/about/testimonials.php

2) Farsi Christian News Network. http://www.fcnn.tv 1 Aug 2007
Torturing an Iranian Christian for his confession of faith in Christ.
http://www.fcnn.tv/start/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4868&Itemid=77
ALSO Iran authorities lash man for having bible in car – report. 13 Aug 2007
http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=12109

3) Defense & Foreign Affairs. Special Analysis
Volume XXV, No. 49 Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Time for Change in Iran?
An Interview with Key Iranian Opposition Leader, Dr Assad Homayoun
http://azadeganiran.com/PDF/Time_for-Change.pdf

4) Escape From Darkness. Daniel Shayesteh.
http://www.escapefromdarkness.org/
ALSO (Daniel Shayesteh's testimony, over a series of five YouTube clips)
http://youtube.com/results?search_query=daniel+shayesteh&search=Search

5) Candle Power. Iran mourns America's dead. 18 Sept 2001
http://www.time.com/time/europe/photoessays/vigil/index.html

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