Son of Martyred Pastor: Iran Cannot Be the Same Anymore

While the results of Iran's contested presidential election have very little chance for change, the country cannot and will not be the same again, points out an Iranian Christian whose father was martyred more than two decades ago.

"I believe the regime cannot be the same anymore," said Joseph Hovsepian Monday, as a body of 12 clerics declared Iran's presidential vote valid and free of major fraud. "It will certainly change as a result of these protests. I personally hope it will shape towards a better and freer Iran."

Since the results of Iran's election were announced earlier this month, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets, only to be met with the iron fist of the country's feared Revolutionary Guard and the riot police.

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Protestors have ignored calls from the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who ordered opposition supporters on Friday to halt their marches and respect the election outcome. They have also utilized the Web to report on Iran's worst civil unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Despite the public outcry, The Guardian Council, an electoral authority the opposition accuses of favoring Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has ruled out the possibility of a new vote, calling the case "closed."

The 12-cleric body said Monday that it had found only "slight irregularities" after randomly selecting and recounting 10 percent of nearly 40 million ballots.

Such irregularities, they added, "are common to any election and needless of attention," according to the state TV channel IRIB.

Western analysts, meanwhile, maintain Ahmadinejad's lopsided 2-1 margin of victory as suspicious and improbable.

"They have a huge credibility gap with their own people as to the election process," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters in Washington.

"And I don't think that's going to disappear by any finding of a limited review of a relatively small number of ballots," she added.

Throughout the protests, Hovsepian reported that the Church in Iran has been gathering together and praying that the Lord "would make something good come out of this (protests and the world's spotlight)."

"We have seen in the history of the world that during crises and pressures people unite and forget the small difference of opinions. So that is happening to the Church in Iran," he reported Monday through the international persecution watchdog group Open Doors.

"They see a window of opportunity to share the gospel with the new generation which is very tired of the dictatorship and the forcing of the Islamic religion on people," he continued. "There is definitely a mixture of excitement, hope and tension. Their hope is in God."

While optimistic, Hovsepian also urged concerned believers in countries outside of Iran to continue remembering Iran in prayers, especially since the danger for Christians protesting in Iran are double.

"If this is how brutally the Iranian government cracks down on its own Muslim protestors who shout 'Alaho Akbar' (God is great), just imagine how much worse it could be for Christians protesting and calling Jesus for help," he exclaimed.

Hovsepian, whose father Bishop Haik Hovsepian was martyred in Iran in 1994, also said he knows that the regime is planning on a "very hard and merciless" reaction to the point that they are putting together a team to silence the protesters within a week.

"Many of the protest leaders have been arrested. People live in fear," he said.

"The danger could be more for Christians. They have already been persecuted for years," he added.

Iran is ranked third on Open Doors' World Watch List for countries with the worst persecution of Christians. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom also lists Iran as a "Country of Particular Concern," a label given to countries with the worst religious freedom abuses.

According to the CIA World Factbook, 98 percent of Iran's population is Muslim while Christians, Jews, Baha'is, and Zoroastrians comprise the remaining two percent.

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