Monday, November 18, 2019

Forty years since Victoria and 80,000 others fled

Forty years since the Iranian revolution, Lyn Julius in Jewish News assesses its impact, resulting in the exodus of three-quarters of the Jewish community:

 I never gave liquorice much thought until I met Victoria. This lady, now in her 80s, had lived in Iran until 1979. Her late husband's business was to harvest the roots of the liquorice plants which proliferate naturally near the town of Kermanshah, and to sell the liquorice for food processing, tobacco or for its medicinal properties.

As soon as the Shah was deposed and the Islamic Republic of Iran declared, Victoria's husband lost no time in bundling his family out of the country : Israel was a major client. Under the Shah, Iran had good relations with the Jewish state. After the Islamic revolution, Israel became the little Satan (the regime considers the US – whose diplomats were taken hostage for 444 days in November 1979 - the great Satan).
Ayatollah Khomeini, architect of the Islamic Revolution in Iran

Iran is racing to develop nuclear weapons so as to dominate the region. It denies the Holocaust and regularly declares its intention to wipe out the Jewish state. Together with its proxies Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah, it presents the greatest physical threat to Israel.

Victoria and her family abandoned their house and their business. They caught a ‘plane to London. She was just one of the 80,000 Jews who made their escape from Iran, many migrating to the US, the UK or Israel.

Thousands of others became hostages. Desperate parents sent 1,800 lone children to safety in the US. Jews risked their lives to be smuggled out over the Pakistani border. The route was treacherous, and several disappeared without trace.
Forty Jews have lost their lives to the regime. The wealthy businessman Habib Elghanian was executed as an example to the terrified community.

For decades the regime has been dispatching its enemies to Evin prison . Into a cell four by ten feet, shared by ten prisoners with two blankets between them, was flung a Jewish manufacturer of brake linings, Joseph Koukou. Greedy employees denounced Koukou as a Zionist spy. Every day inmates would be randomly executed by firing squad. Koukou was lucky to get out alive after serving five years in jail.

Victoria knows of no refugee from the Islamic regime - Jewish or non-Jewish - who has received compensation. In London, she went to the Iranian embassy to register the family’s lost assets. Their house was now a police station, but the thought of turning up on the doorstep to order the policemen out was improbable.
The remaining 8,000 Jews are ostensibly free to practise their religion, but any link with Israel is taboo. The secret police controls what the community says. To its credit, the regime has not encouraged popular violence against Jews, although there have been isolated incidents.

Jews in Iran have fewer rights than Muslims, are subject to unfair inheritance laws and debarred from the upper echelons of government, the army and politics – except for one token Jewish MP.

Unlike their rulers, the Iranian people are generally thought of as open-minded and pro-western. Victoria had nothing but pleasant memories of life under the Shah. But Jews have suffered pogroms and forced conversions during their 3,000-year old history.

Ultimately individuals pay the price for political upheaval and intolerance: Every year on or around 30 November , we commemorate the exodus of Jews from Arab countries and Iran. On the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, let’s not forget the innocent victims of this anti-Semitic and brutal regime.

Harif ( and the S&P Sephardi Community will be holding a Jewish Refugee Day event on 30 November with the band Eastern Beats. Booking www. article in full


Jesterhead45 said...

Is it possible to get a clear idea of the number of Jews left in Iran?

Apparently there are currently 9826 Jews in Iran, yet seem to recall recent figures ranging from as high as 8900 to as low as 7700 Jews.

bataween said...

A recent census put the figure at 8,000. Probalby a conservative estimate. The numbers keep dwindling year by year, however.

Jesterhead45 said...

Thanks. Is there a specific source for the recent census?

bataween said...