What are Iranian Christians Saying About Their Latest Presidential Election?

Iran has elected a new president, but Christians inside Iran are suspicious.

First, there is never a ‘real’ election in Iran, there is only the illusion of an election. The Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah of Iran, is not elected. The Supreme Leader chooses the presidential candidates and the people are allowed to vote on the candidates who are set before them.

What if the Supreme Leader changes his mind and wants to change presidents?

That is the concern of Naghmeh Panahi who is working with the underground house church in Iran. According to her, many in the house church believe that the “Iranian government might have put all their leaders in a helicopter to replace them with more moderate leaders to calm the people down.”

In May, the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and their top staff all died in a helicopter crash in Iran. The crash comes in the wake of some of the largest protests in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd who had been arrested for allegedly violating the strict dress rule for women to cover their head.

The house church of Iran is not alone in noticing the suspicious timing of the Iranian President’s death. Others noted that there was a media blackout immediately following the helicopter crash. The government bought time for their lack of transparency with a report that there was a phone message received from one of the passengers and rescue teams were on the way. It was later revealed however, that all passengers died on impact, eliminating the possibility that anyone ever received a text message after the crash.

The crash also took place six days after the Financial Times published a lengthy investigation confirming that President Ebrahim Raisi was most likely to succeed Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, beating out Khamenei’s own son, Mojtaba.

The new president of Iran is known as a moderate. He is not a religious hardliner, confirming reports from Iranian Christians that the Supreme Leader was looking for a way to ease tensions and pacify the people.

“Iran is going through a cycle,” Naghmeh says, comparing her own experience of domestic abuse with the national incident. Domestic abuse often has four cycles; the first phase is tension building, which the Iranian church saw with the abusive laws against women forcing them to be submissive to Islam.

The second phase was the incident, where the abuser lashes out with physical, verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse. The incident in Iran that set everything off was the violent killing of Mahsa Amini.

The third phase is often referred to as the reconciliation stage, where the abuser apologizes and tries to find excuses that blame the victim. The Iranian government blamed Mahsa Amini’s death on her for not being obedient. “She made them do it.”

The final phase is where Naghmeh currently thinks the government of Iran is at – the ‘calm’ phase. This is where the abuser tries to placate the victim and make up for the abuse to control the situation. All domestic abuse counselors know that the calm phase does not last. It is only for a short period of time.

How is the calm phase changing things in Iran? According to Naghmeh, “I just heard from the [house church] leaders inside that many women are not wearing coverings anymore.”

This change directly points to the incident with the death of Mahsa Amini.

You can read more about Naghmeh’s personal story in her book, I DIDN’T SURVIVE.

 

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