Why do Jews stay in Iran?

For Iran Week, Majid Rafizadeh has this sobering article in The Tablet detailing the discrimination to which Iranian Jews are exposed. So which Jews stay in Iran? The elderly, those unable to tolerate travel, and those who wish to be buried in their ancestral land. (With thanks: Hilda)

In the current climate of the Iranian government’s antagonism toward
Israel, the remaining Jewish population of Iran, which numbers perhaps
9,000, is caught in complex circumstances. Iran’s Jewish community has
to be extremely cautious of showing any sympathy toward Israel. If they
exhibit any sign of this, they risk serious criminal charges, such as
being labeled an Israeli spy. Consequences of these charges range from
torture to death.

Each word spoken, each action taken, and all movement throughout the
community is calculated and evaluated carefully to prevent these
consequences. Still, this is not enough. The government authorities
intervene in the few Jewish schools that remain. Jews are not allowed to
become school principals. The curriculum has changed, and activities
are monitored to make sure, for example, that the main language is
Persian and not Hebrew. Distribution of Hebrew texts or the teaching of
Judaism is risky and strongly discouraged.

Even within school walls, the Jewish community cannot expect any form
of safety or freedom. Current restrictions and discriminatory policies
against Jews include bans against Jewish people in key governmental and
significant decision-making positions: A Jewish person can’t be a member
of the influential Guardian Council, a commander in the army, or serve
as the president of the nation, among other restrictions. Jews are not
permitted to become a judge at any level or assist in the judicial or
legislative systems. Furthermore, Jews are banned from becoming members
of parliament (the Consultative Assembly) through general elections.

A service in an Iranian synagogue

Jews are not allowed to inherit from Muslims. But, if one member of a
Jewish family converts to Islam, he would inherit everything. This law
seems to be designed to promote conversion to Islam by providing
financial incentives.

There exist several forms of discrimination in the penal code as well. Qisas,
or the right to equal justice, has not been specified in the penal code
for the Jewish people. For example, if a Jew kills a Muslim, the family
of the victim has the right to ask for execution as a penalty, but if a
Muslim kills a Jew, the right of a family member to demand the
execution of the murderer would be left to the discretion of the judges.

Iran’s constitution lays out in detail the protections for practicing
and preaching Islam, but not for Judaism. Article 12 of the Iranian
Constitution states:

The official religion of Iran is Islam and the Twelver
Ja’fari school, and this principle will remain eternally immutable.
Other Islamic schools are to be accorded full respect, and their
followers are free to act in accordance with their own jurisprudence in
performing their religious rites. These schools enjoy official status in
matters pertaining to religious education, affairs of personal status
(marriage, divorce, inheritance, and wills) and related litigation in
courts of law. In regions of the country where Muslims following any one
of these schools constitute the majority, local regulations, within the
bounds of the jurisdiction of local councils, are to be in accordance
with the respective school of fiqh, without infringing upon the rights of the followers of other [Islamic] schools.

One might wonder how Iranian leaders dare to boast about equality
between Jews and others while intimidating entire segments of its
population into silence under laws that are manifestly unequal. To
further insult the communities, they claim that Jews remain in Iran
because they are treated equally. The impression is given that the Iranian government
has created such a welcoming space for its Jewish community that they
would freely choose to live there. There is no mention of the vast
majority of people that have fled the oppressive laws and policies and
settled in other countries for the sake of their physical safety.

So who stays in Iran? Some of the Jews who have stayed in Iran are
elderly and unable to tolerate travel or establishing a new home in a
foreign country. Some Jews are determined to protect their sacred places
and synagogues, or family homes.

Read article in full

One Comment

  • Like the fanatics, yes fanatics, in Yemen who will never leave no matter what. Well fine, that's on them. And when the last Iranian Jew dies the government will bulldoze every shul, dig up every Jewish cemetery, burn every Jewish book and completely erase the entire history of Jews in Iran.

    Reply

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