For the first time in history the World Cup took place in a Muslim country, Qatar. In front of billions of people watching worldwide, the Iranian players remained silent as their national anthem played in the stadium. It was a simple but dramatic show of solidarity with the protestors back home who have been fighting the regime since mid-September.
Though the world's attention has moved on, the violent uprisings in Iran continue to cost the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians. More than 18,000 people, including 500 students, have been arrested and over 400 have died since the protests began. The initial spark of the protests was the death of a young lady, Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for improperly wearing her headcover. While in prison, Amini was beaten so badly that she eventually died from her injuries. Her death was the spark that led women to the streets, brazenly removing their required head coverings and burning them as others recorded the protests on cell phones. Men have joined the angry demonstrations, denouncing a regime they see as repressive and the cause of crushing international sanctions and isolation that have sent inflation soaring and led to rampant poverty.
The movement's slogan, “Women, Life, Freedom,” epitomizes the driving forces behind the demands of the Iranian people. For the first time in 40 years of Islamic rule, this liberation movement is led by women of all demographics. However, this fact is not as surprising as some may think. Iranian women are culturally quite different than Muslim women in countries like Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Before the Islamic revolution, Iran was an open society where women could pursue higher education and economic opportunities independent of their spouses. In fashion and lifestyle, they were far more aligned with the West than the Middle East. So when mandatory dress codes and forced morality became the source of law in Iran, women felt the strongest oppression. For decades, many wore a headcover they did not believe in to uphold a religion they no longer followed. As a former Muslim of Iranian descent, I understand why the “unveiling” became the rallying cry of Iranian women.
God has placed in all our hearts the innate desire to be free. Though dictators or religious leaders attempt to force obedience, the subjugation becomes unbearable.
Citizens of the world have shown their support for the plight of the Iranian people by erecting billboards, wearing t-shirts of the movement's catchphrases, and participating in large-scale local protests. These gestures, which pressure Western governments to isolate and punish Iranian officials, are showing signs of success. In the U.S., the Biden administration has halted discussions about the Iran nuclear deal since the regime's crackdown on protesters and Iranian support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. There was also a motion by the U.S. to remove Iran from the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, citing their systematic abuse of women as the reason. Last week, the E.U. on Monday placed sanctions on 29 people and three organizations, including prominent members of the Revolutionary Guards who have spearheaded the crackdown. In France, President Macron said, “This revolution changes many things ... I don't think there will be new proposals which can be made right now to save the nuclear deal.”
Though the challenges are daunting, there is also a unique role for believers to share the burden faced by Iranians. What’s happening to Iranian protesters should move the global Church because when Christ looks at the Church, He is not seeing us as an American church versus an Iranian church or a European church. He considers the Church to be one body with Him at its head. He entrusted all members of that body with the responsibility to protect and nurture it.
“…God has so composed the body … that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it..” (1 Corinthians 12: 25-26).
Western churches have long been partnering with Iranian Christians to reach the country with the Gospel, but we also should speak out for them and the cause of justice. It is a plea that echoes verses in Proverbs 31: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Some Iranian Christian dissidents who experienced the brutality of the Mullahs firsthand and managed to escape are not given a platform by mainstream media because they are too outspoken against the regime and its religious indoctrination. Marziyeh Amirzadeh, a recent Georgian candidate for U.S. Congress and author of the best-selling book Captive in Iran, claims there is a media bias against people like her who expose the regime's inner workings. Therefore, Christian media and community members need to be the voice of such courageous individuals so the true story of Iran’s leaders is made public and real change can occur.
Iran is the ninth most dangerous place in the world for Christians, particularly those who convert from Islam. As the fastest-growing church in the world, millions of Iranians risk their lives every day to worship the Lord and share the Gospel. It is time that this tyranny finally comes to an end.
Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel. She dedicates herself full-time to Resurrect Ministry, an online resource that harnesses the power of the Internet to make salvation through Christ available to people of all nations, and her daily podcast LivingFearlessDevotional.com.