DURHAM, N.C. (BP) — Nathan Rostampour received yet another patchy correspondence today (Oct. 11) from his native Iran, where the internet has been shaky in the wake of protests that have the potential to change a decades-long regime.
“I’m in connection with house church leaders and church networks over there and thanks to God, they are safe. But they are under a lot of pressure,” said Rostampour, Central Asia Church Planting director for The Summit Church.
News of the Iranian protests is only now getting traction with Americans, but for Rostampour and others, it has been more than a month. That’s when Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iran’s Kurdish region, died while being held by the country’s morality police.
“They beat her up and killed her just because she didn’t cover her hair properly,” he said.
That set off a wave of protests, with women publicly burning their hijabs and others doing the same to pictures of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Media reports say at least 185 have been killed, 19 of them minors, with hundreds injured and thousands arrested by police.
The protests started as women supporting other women. But that has changed to become something Rostampour calls “different.”
“It’s not only women, but people who are protesting the Islamic regime. They are saying ‘We don’t want you anymore.’ This isn’t just about economic problems or women’s freedom. It’s really different from previous times,” he said.
Rostampour and his family became Christians when he was a teenager through the witness of his aunt. That led to becoming involved in the house church movement throughout the country, working under threat from authorities. Forced to leave the country in his late 20s, he eventually settled in America where his current role connects him with 20 house churches in Iran.
The threat has been consistent. He visits those pastors in a nearby country where it’s safe a few times a year. Every Sunday he and his wife host a fellowship over Instagram, where VPNs, aliases, and encrypted programs are a must to protect the participants’ safety.
Rostampour, whose story has been in BP and Christianity Today, said the breadth of the protests and their reach into Iranian society reflect a people desperate for freedom.
“Our hearts have been really heavy these days. We are thinking this may be the last chance for the Iranian people to end 43 years of oppression and persecution from these leaders,” he said.
“These protests are happening all over the country. There are oil workers, university professors, teachers, students, and people from old and younger generations. There is a hope that the country can be free from this brutal, evil government.”