Iran: People Want Change


Date:  May 24, 2017


by Elizabeth Kendal

Iranians went to the polls on 19 May to elect a president. In the end it was 
essentially a two-man race between the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani 
(68) and the quasi-socialist, ultra-conservative hard-liner, Ebrahim Raisi 
(56). It was a high turn-out election and Rouhani won comfortably, garnering 
57 percent of the vote, while Raisi got 38.5 percent. What is most 
significant about this result is that Raisi lost despite being the preferred 
candidate of Ayatollah Khamenei, the clerical regime and the Iranian 
Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC). Increasingly convinced that election 
boycotts are counter-productive, Iran's more educated and less devout 
urbanites - indeed all those yearning for greater freedoms and openness and 
an economy energised through improved relations with the West - came out en 
masse to vote for Rouhani.  

WHAT THIS MEANS is that the era of boycotts is definitely over. If this were 
not obvious in the 2016 parliamentary elections - which saw numerous 
hard-liners lose their seats to genuine moderates and reformers -  it is 
certainly clear now. The people are rising, gathering momentum, and making 
their will known. As is becoming clear, the will of the majority is for 
change. WHAT THIS DOES NOT MEAN is that anything will change at this point in 
time. Presidential elections are engineered to ensure that the president will 
represent the Islamic revolutionary regime. Furthermore, ultimate power still 
resides in the hands of Iran's unelected powers: the Ayatollah Khamenei and 
the IRGC. Human rights will not improve. During Rouhani's first term as 
president more than 3000 Iranians were put to death for 'crimes' such as 
'insulting Islam', a marked increase on the previous regime of hard-liner 
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Executions will surely continue, as will harassment and 
persecution of Christians. But at least the situation will not deteriorate. 
Or will it?  

On 21 May, just two days after the Iranian election, US President Donald 
Trump delivered a key speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in which he labelled 
Iran the 'world's biggest sponsor of terrorism', and called on 'nations of 
conscience' to 'isolate' Iran. Whilst Iran's clerical regime is indeed a 
leading sponsor of international Islamic terror, the 9/11 terrorists were all 
Sunnis (specifically Wahhabis) and 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. 
Likewise, the terrorist groups singled out by President Trump - al-Qaeda and 
Islamic State - are Sunni groups whose members were radicalised in mostly 
Saudi-funded Sunni mosques and madrassas. Ignoring all this, President Trump 
signed an extensive arms package worth almost $110 billion on 20 May -  
potentially up to $350 billion over the next decade - with Saudi Arabia, the 
world's other 'biggest sponsor of terrorism'. The reality is various Islamic 
jihadists, terrorists and militants wreaking havoc across the world today are 
nothing but proxies, incapable of surviving without state sponsorship. While 
Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia are the leading sponsors of terrorism, Saudi 
Arabia is also the primary facilitator of global radicalisation. [A more 
detailed analysis of the evolving situation in the Middle East will be posted 
to Religious Liberty Monitoring in the coming weeks.]  

By aligning America so completely with Saudi Arabia against Iran, Trump and 
US Secretary of State Tillerson will surely have set back any gains made by 
Iranian moderates at the ballot box. This will complicate the situation for 
reformists in general and Christians in particular, especially evangelicals. 
The Iranian regime will become very defensive. As all this was unfolding, the 
trial of two Christians, Victor Bet-Tamraz and Amin Afshar Naderi, was 
continuing in Tehran.  


* be powerfully present and active inside Iran as he works all things 
together for good, for the benefit of the Church and the Iranian people, 
'according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the 
fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on 
earth'. (Ephesians 1:9b,10 ESV)  

* protect, preserve and sanctify the Persian Church, as it grows both in its 
diaspora and inside Iran. 'And we know that for those who love God all things 
work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.' 
(Romans 8:28 ESV)  

* move the heart of President Rouhani and others in the regime, that the 
leaders will accept that the people are calling for change and will have the 
courage to pursue it.   

'Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, [king of Persia, 6th Century 
BC] . . . I name you, though you do not know me. ... I equip you, though you 
do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the 
west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.' 
(From Isaiah 54:1-13 ESV)  

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