I would like to share with you my life experience as an Iranian Jew and my perspective in regard to Iran and Hezbollah—A period of my life that no one should experience.
I remember when I was treated like a spy or an enemy. Several years after the Iranian Revolution, I was handcuffed, blindfolded, and interrogated at gunpoint on several occasions even though I did not belong to any political party or any uprising movement groups. The experience was traumatizing, and I did not know if I would ever see my family again. The harsh treatment was for one reason only. I was a Jew that wanted to flee oppression. Any other non-Jew was able to get a passport within few weeks without a single interview.
In 1979, the Islamic Republican Revolution in Iran achieved success, and the Pahlavi dynasty (Shah) came to end. In 661 C.E., Iran was invaded by Arabs and became part of the Islamic Empire. This was the beginning of a dark chapter in the life of Iranian Jews. They were classified as dhimmis, non-Muslim subjects. Jews were denied social and political equality, and considered as second-class citizens. Extreme Muslim fanatics frequently attacked Jewish ghettos in different cities of Iran and forced Jews to convert to Islam or die. Many Jews converted, yet those who remained defiant witnessed their babies thrown into the air and caught by sword while their wives and loved ones were beheaded in front of them until they were next. There were some Jews who were able to hide or run away and survive from chaos. My grandparents were among these Jews. My grandfather changed his last name to hide his Jewish identity to stay alive.
When the Shah came to the power, he stopped all inhumane and cruel acts toward the Jews. He opened peoples’ minds toward western countries, brought new industries, and updated technology. He transformed the seventh-century Islamic country to a modern civilization.
Unfortunately, a radical Islamic party named Hezbollah and a group of mullahs were able overthrow the Shah and push the country back to the stone-age era. Once again Jews lost all their privileges and rights. Hezbollah created I.D. cards with religion written on it. They made a complete list of Jewish families with their names, addresses, and number of family members. They prohibited the use of Jewish names for newborns. Jewish schools were required to remain open for Shabbat and other Jewish holidays. Moreover, all the prayer books were translated into Farsi, and Hebrew was not allowed to be taught any more.
In another experience, my sister was supposed to engage to a Jewish man. My Dad arranged an engagement party and invited both sides of the extended families. However, happiness turned to a nightmare. Hezbollah militants were informed of a Jewish party. About twenty soldiers fully armed with machine guns arrived as if they were going to fight a war, and they vehemently ravaged the party. They overturned the cake, poured all the drinks on the ground, and broke the glasses and dishes. They use racial slurs to keep everyone quiet to aboard the buses. They took about 93 people to jail, but luckily two of my uncles escaped. The next day, they managed to release all of us from jail by paying the high bail that was set.
Radical Iranian Muslims believe the followers of the Bahai faith are first ones to be destroyed, second Jews, and third anyone who is not Muslim. The judge of the case was an uneducated fanatic mullah. When he realized the case was about Jews and Bahai’s, he threw the file on the desk furiously and shouted, “We had an Islamic Revolution and still Jews and Bahai’s are living here?” A few days later the judgment came; my dad and all Bahai believers were sentenced to death and the rest of us to 72 lashes. After my uncles bribed every mullah and Hezbollah militant related to the case, they were able to change the sentence to 18 months prison with 72 lashes for my dad. Our sentence changed to 12 lashes, but the Bahai’s sentence remained the same. After the release of my father, we were able to get our passport illegally and with the help of HIAS and the JCC, we came as a refugee to the United States.
Prior to this incident, I was a student of the University of Shiraz and moved from my hometown in Tehran. Shiraz was a much smaller and harsher city for Jews than Tehran. Jews in Shiraz could not enter grocery stores because they were considered impure, and they would make things unkosher for Muslims. Jews remained outside the shop, and the shopkeeper brought them all their items. I lived among Hezbollah militants and Muslim students for 3.5 years and pretend to be one. Hezbollah militants had prayers and different meetings on a daily basis. At the end of all those gatherings they would pray for the destruction of Israel and free Palestine of Jews. From preschool to university, students were brainwashed with ideas that Jews are disbelievers of Mohamed, enemies of Islam, and seized Palestine. Furthermore, they expound that Israel should be destroyed, and the land should be taken back.
Some Iranians have high respect for Hezbollah and mullahs. They will do anything for them thinking they are acting in the name of God and Islam. Common sense or logic has no meaning for them, and they just follow orders. Unfortunately, these extremists portray an extremely wrong picture of Islam to the world. Not all Muslims are like them. But for now Hezbollah is in power and with money from rich country like Iran and support from Lebanon, Syria and Hamas they can get more powerful to reach their goals.
We can never afford to lose our land. Without Israel the Jewish people would have no safety or security around the world. We must support Israel in defending herself against terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. They have no mercy even toward their own people including women, children, and elderly. They launch rockets from civilian areas for protection and also use civilians to shelter their weapons. Hezbollah’s heartless regard for civilian life results in deaths of innocent Lebanese. Reports on the news even showed a Hezbollah rocket killing two children of a Muslim in Israel, and the dad still blamed Israel. He went on explaining that he still supports Hezbollah and would sacrifice his life for their cause. In another incident, Israel unintentionally killed approximately 60 civilians in Qana, Lebanon and many protests arose against Israel. However, in Iraq 100 people die everyday from Sunni’s and Shiites inner fighting and there have not been the same magnitude of out cry around the world.
We must remember that Israel did not initiate this war. Two Israeli soldiers were captured and over 1,600 rockets were fired into Israel. Israel cannot negotiate with a terrorist organization that supports a Jihad-War against non Muslims. The fact that Jews are alive is unacceptable to them. Israel cannot negotiate with an organization that has this mentality. As former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, these organizations promote a new Nazism concealed in Muslim fanaticism. We must support Israel in any way to prevent a second holocaust from occurring. Furthermore, we must help prevent the global radical Islamist movements from jeopardizing international peace and stability.