Jewish community joins Iranian protest of Khatami's UK visit

Iranian Jews said to suffer from government-sanctioned discrimination.

khatami harvard 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
khatami harvard 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Jewish community members joined protesters from Iranian minority groups at Chatham House in central London on Wednesday night following a plea to "unite" and join them to protest the visit of former Iranian president Muhammad Khatami, the most senior Iranian figure to enter the UK since 1979.
Over 300 people attended the peaceful protest calling for Khatami to be indicted for human rights abuses during his tenure as president, and for an end of Islamic rule in Iran.
In an e-mail sent to various community organizations, Nousha, a college tutor from Brighton, appealed to the Jewish community for support.
"It is now a crucial time to unite. We need the Jewish community to collaborate to restore the rights of the Jewish community [in Iran] as well as innocent Iranians from various religious backgrounds who are clearly separate from the government," Nousha wrote.
"I am Iranian, however, I cannot justify or condone this regime's opposition to Judaism," she added. "Iran's Jewish community as well as other religious groups have endured much burden and suffering. The anti-Israel policies of the Iranian government have also created a hostile atmosphere for the Jewish community. Currently, Iran's Jewish community is officially recognized as a religious minority group by the government. Like other religious minorities, Jews suffer from officially sanctioned discrimination."
She added: "Prior to the revolution in 1979, Jews maintained a presence in very many cities. There were 80,000 Jews in Iran. The Pahlavi dynasty implemented modernizing reforms which greatly improved the life of Jews.
"However, the Islamic Republic in Iran has displayed an appalling catalogue of genocide and crimes against the Jewish community. It is no great secret that Judaism must be 'silent' in Iran. If it were louder, it would attract a lot of unwanted attention from the Islamic regime and its thugs."
At the demonstration, one protester told The Jerusalem Post: "Khatami has always been introduced to the world by Western governments and media as the smiling and reformist face of the Islamic Republic but under his regime, hundreds were executed, women had no rights and were sentenced to death by stoning, thousands were arrested and demonstrations and workers' strikes were brutally crushed."
A member of the Iranian Jewish community at the protest, who did not want to be named because he still has family in Teheran, said: "It typifies what is wrong with the general mentality that someone who has presided over a regime that has oppressed and murdered is welcomed with such open arms.
"Fifty percent of the population of Iran believe in democratic ideals and as a former member of a minority community in Iran, I stand with shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian community who oppose Khatami."
Also protesting the treatment of ethnic minorities in Iran, including the ethnic cleansing they suffered under Khatami, were members of the Ahwazi Arab minority who live in Khuzestan in present-day Iran. Prior to its annexation by Iran in 1925, it was an autonomous, and at times independent, territory inhabited entirely by indigenous Ahwazi Arab tribes.
A spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Group, based in London, told the Post: "It seems that the only Arabs that ever deserve solidarity are the Palestinians, but the Ahwazis are treated far worse."