In 2009, the Iranian government arrested and imprisoned us and sentenced us to death by hanging because of our evangelical Christian faith. We recounted that experience in the book “Captive in Iran.”

We have experienced firsthand the cruelty of the Iranian regime, including the intelligence officers and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps forces who were responsible for brutally torturing our best friend, Shirin Alam Hooli, a Kurdish activist, and her execution by hanging, among many of their other cruel actions.

The Revolutionary Guard is notorious in Iran as a force behind all suppressions, arrests, tortures, and mass killings of many Iranians, including in the most recent protests last November, in which well over a thousand (and likely more) were killed, and many more were arrested. Also, the force is responsible for terrorist actions across the Middle East in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and beyond.  

For many Iranians, including us, it was a relief to hear that Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, was killed last week in a U.S.-led strike. Suleimani has blood on his hands of not only Iranians, but also U.S. service members, Iraqis, Afghanis, and Syrians.

Most people in Iran are celebrating the death of a man who murdered innocent Iranians as recently as the November protests. Unlike what is shown in the Western media, people inside Iran are sending out videos through social media that show they are privately dancing at their homes, celebrating the death of Suleimani. Some even bake and give each other cookies to show their happiness.

In November, thousands of Iranians were brutally killed by the regime’s agents, particularly by the Revolutionary Guard forces under the leadership of Suleimani.

Many families lost their loved ones, including young children, during the suppression of the protests. Some could not even get the bodies of their children released or were forced to pay the price of the bullet (thousands of dollars) to get their bodies returned.

Other families, including that of Pouya Bakhtiari, were not even allowed to mourn or have a funeral for their children because the regime was afraid many Iranians would join and that would lead to another protest against the regime.

If the people of Iran had the freedom to attend the funerals of those who were killed during the recent protests, we would likely see millions of Iranians show up and support the anti-regime movement.

It is important to understand that the crowd that gathered for Suleimani’s funeral does not represent the Iranian people at large. Supporters of the regime and those who truly mourn the death of terrorist Suleimani are in the minority.

Most of those shown on state television are either paid by the regime—such as Basijis—or forced to attend by regime security forces. On Monday, four people were arrested because they expressed their happiness at Suleimani’s death on social media, according to Iran International.

Since the death of Suleimani, the regime has shut down schools, bazaars (shops and places of business), and public offices and forced people to attend the funeral. It bused school children to the funeral and even forced them to cry for the TV cameras.

The regime also ordered all traffic to be directed to the location of the funeral so that even those who didn’t want to participate had no choice but to join the crowd. It stopped all subways and trains and forced riders to leave the stations and join the crowd in the streets.

The funeral was just a big show orchestrated by the Iranian regime to make it appear that Suleimani was beloved by the Iranian people, and that they want revenge for his death—which is not what we’re hearing from firsthand sources and Persian news sources.

We know from our time in Iran that the regime uses threats and force to make people attend ceremonies like this to show massive support for the government. In school, our principals forced us to say, “Death to America and death to Israel” every day before class and to attend speeches whenever the president or other government authorities came to our city—and we would be expelled if we didn’t attend. The same was true for high school and university students.

In general, if people do not attend such gatherings, they will lose their jobs, public benefits, and even risk their lives and security.

Meanwhile, much of the Western media seems to be partnering with the Iranian government in spreading the propaganda that there is massive popular support for the regime. Western media focused on the huge crowds mourning the death of Suleimani and tried to show that people in Iran are angry about his death and want revenge.

The reality is that most Iranians love the United States and Americans, and would like to establish a friendly relationship with Israel and the U.S. and live in peace with other nations.

Iran has been captured by this hostile regime and the mullahs (religious leaders) for more than 40 years. Many Iranians who have been suppressed by the regime have shown, through their protests, that they oppose the regime and want to see it replaced.

Most Iranians, including us, thank President Donald Trump and his administration for standing with the Iranian people and adopting policies that are weakening the regime’s power within Iran and in the region. We also thank Trump for putting an end to Suleimani, a monster terrorist, and other terrorist leaders who accompanied him.