Sunday, January 19, 2020

Iranian Jews overcame threats of deportation from the US

Some 40 years ago, the Iran hostage crisis had an unintended impact on Jews seeking refuge in the US. Point of No Return heard the following anecdotes: 

A mass demonstration in favour of Ayatollah Khomeini during the 1979 Iranian revolution

The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic standoff between the United States and Iran. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Iranian college students belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line, who supported the Iranian Revolution, took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

 The crisis coincided with a mass exodus of Jews and westernised Iranians. Following the revolution, Jews were persecuted and many found refuge in the US. Less well-known are the unintended consequences on Jews of measures the US took in response to the crisis: some Jews were threatened with deportation.

One Jewish family, which had moved to New York, had an unwelcome visit from two policemen. They claimed that the daughter's papers were not in order. The mother invited in the policemen, plied them with lashings of her trademark chocolate cake, and finally convinced them that it was folly for Jews oppressed by the Islamic Republic of Iran to be sent back.

 In the same time period, a young friend of the family was invited to dinner. He arrived an hour late. He apologised to the hostess, a stickler for punctuality, saying,' Sorry I'm late, Auntie, I was applying for political asylum'.

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