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15 years later: Has Iran's largest revolt against Islamic regime made impact?

Protesters gather to demonstrate against the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran on September 23, 2022, in Berlin, Germany.
Protesters gather to demonstrate against the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran on September 23, 2022, in Berlin, Germany. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

June 12 marks the 15th anniversary of the 2009 Iranian Green Movement, a massive wave of peaceful protests across Iran.  The Iranian Green Movement was triggered by the fraudulent results of the election that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency. I watched the protests unfolding against the Islamic regime from my cell in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison where I had been arrested and sentenced to death for the “crime” of converting to Christianity — which the Islamic regime calls apostacy.  

The Green Movement was the largest protest in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Some three million peaceful demonstrators flooded Tehran’s streets, and in cities across Iran, about four percent of Iran’s population.

As the election results were rigged, and Ahmadinejad returned to office through cheating, Iranians demanded his removal. For millions of brave Iranians who protested and many millions more who were afraid to do so but supported the movement, the fraudulent election was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After suffering years of violence, harsh death penalties, and the execution of juveniles under Ahmadinejad, and decades of criminal immorality, misogyny, and ruthless human rights abuses under the Islamic regime, they had had enough.

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The Islamic regime responded by brutally shooting hundreds of protesters wantonly in the streets. They tortured and killed hundreds more political prisoners, and arrested thousands, dozens of whom were also executed.

A video of the fatal shooting of Neda Agha Soltan, a philosophy student who was participating in the protests, went viral domestically and internationally. This motivated wider domestic protests, and harsher government crackdowns. It generated international concern that should have led to Western governments coming to the aid of the protesters against the regime. But the West failed.

In prison, I witnessed firsthand masses of people imprisoned and tortured for protesting the election fraud. Our already overcrowded cells were packed beyond capacity with the newly arrested. There was no space even on the floor for people to sleep. Many were beaten, tortured, and raped during their interrogations. Cellmates who had life sentences were forced to work inside the prison and were witness to, among other horrors, an empty pool full of the bodies of young people who were murdered during interrogation. They witnessed the removal of the dead bodies from the prison to be dumped outside in secret. Fifteen years later, many Iranians still don’t know what happened to their loved ones.

The murders and brutal torture were not just spontaneous acts of overzealous criminals or “morality police,” but orders from Ahmadinejad and the “supreme leader” Ayatollah Khamenei. One of my cellmates who attended the protest received a five-year sentence with no evidence presented against her. The judge simply declared that he gave her this sentence because he suspected and felt that her thoughts and attitude were against the regime. She laughed with anger when she shared this, shocked that nobody in the world would believe Iranian judges sentence people to prison based on their “suspicions and feelings,” much less lack of due process and no evidence. (I shared many firsthand accounts in my books, A Love Journey with God, and “Captive in Iran” at

When the Islamic regime turned the peaceful protests into a bloodbath, the Iranian people begged for help from the United States. They were chanting “Obama are you with us or with them?” “Obama” in Farsi means, “He is with us;” [O (he) ba (with) ma (us)]. Despite people’s pleas, Obama showed his true face and stood with the criminal Islamic regime. He not only turned his back on the Iranian people who were fighting for their freedom, and the greatest opportunity to end the murderous Islamic regime, but he later made the worst deal in history with Iran (JCPOA), emboldening the regime, setting a path for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, and sending billions of dollars into the coffers of the criminal Mullahs. This was used to further suppress the Iranian people and to fund and expand terrorism across the Middle East.

The Iranian people will never forget Obama’s betrayal. Now, 15 years later, Obama’s protégé is also guilty of betraying the Iranian people. President Biden has also provided billions of dollars to the regime, passed up the opportunity to end the regime after the 2022 murder of Mahsa Amini, and has brought the world to the brink of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

In 15 years, we have seen failure after failure in appeasing and negotiating with the terrorist regime. Sadly, western politicians pay lip service to Islamic human rights violations, placing their own interests above moral policies internationally, and risking the security of their own citizens by allowing the regime’s terrorist agents into their countries to spread their lies and propaganda.

The vast majority of Iranians reject the repressive Islamic Republic, but they have no power to change this system on their own. Iranians long to be free, but they have no hope for the future of their country, until this regime is no longer in power.

I pray that on this 15th anniversary of the biggest revolt against the Islamic regime, and its most violent and bloody murderous response, Western governments will understand that the Islamic regime is evil personified, that its nature is unchangeable, and that it not only harms the lives of millions of Iranians but also others around the world.

Obama campaigned on “change” and “hope.” He offered no hope for Iran, and unless Western policies change, we will all be much worse off.

Now, with “elections” scheduled to replace President Raisi who mysteriously died in a helicopter accident on May 19, will Iranians respond again with protests? Will the regime crackdown again? And will the US and the West sit idly by, watching as more innocent Iranians’ blood is shed? I hope not, and I pray to that end.

Marziyeh Amirizadeh is an Iranian American who immigrated to the US after being sentenced to death in Iran for the “crime” of converting to Christianity. She endured months of mental and physical hardships and intense interrogation. She is author of two books (the latest, A Love Journey with God), public speaker, and activist for religious freedom. She has shared her inspiring story throughout the United States and around the world, to bring awareness about the ongoing human rights violations and persecution of women and religious minorities in Iran. She can be reached at

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