At least five Jews arrested by Iran during protests against Islamic Republic

"The Jewish community in Iran is under pressure," an Iranian dissident said. "Like other Iranians, also Jewish Iranians are oppressed."

Iranians hold flags during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022 (photo credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
Iranians hold flags during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022
(photo credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)

At least five Iranian Jews were arrested by Iranian security forces over the last few weeks during nationwide protests engulfing the theocratic Islamic state, The Jerusalem Post can reveal.

Karmel Melamed, an Iranian-American journalist who has deep sourcing within the Persian Jewish community in Iran and in the Iranian Diaspora, told the Post that "my contact source who is in contact with the Jewish leadership in Iran has confirmed that indeed five Jews have been arrested in Iran recently, but one was released after a one-week detention.”

He added that "the four remaining Jews are still in jail, awaiting adjudication of their cases by the Iranian authorities along with many other young people who have been arrested for their involvement in the protests. Of the four Jews are in custody, two of them are university students from Tehran who were rounded up with the scores of other student protestors.”

Some detained Jews are Tehran university students

Melamed, who has written extensively about Iranian Jews, said “one of the Jews in custody is a Jewish student from Shiraz who was arrested for flying a small drone in his city. The flying of any drones by civilians is strictly prohibited by the Iranian regime.”

According to Melamed, “right now, the Jewish leadership in Tehran is working closely with the regime's authorities to help secure their release.”

Iranians burn an effigy in the likeness of U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest marking the annual al-Quds Day (Jerusalem Day) on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran June 8, 2018 (credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY)Iranians burn an effigy in the likeness of U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest marking the annual al-Quds Day (Jerusalem Day) on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran June 8, 2018 (credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY)

Armita Abbasi, 20, who sports a Star of David necklace in photographs of herself although she is not Jewish, was arrested and raped by the Islamic Republic’s security forces in October. CNN reported that, in contrast to most Iranian dissidents within Iran, she “did not anonymize her anti-regime posts” on social media.

The news network, which did not mention her wearing a Star of David, reported that leaked accounts “suggested that Iranian security forces tortured and sexually assaulted Abbasi.”

Sheina Vojoudi, a spokesperson for the Senate of the National Iranian Congress, told the Post: “Ask the Islamic Republic where Armita Abbasi is – the girl with the Magen David? She was arrested, raped and tortured. Where is she now?"

An Iranian dissident who fled the Islamic Republic of Iran due to repression, Vojoudi added that the "Jewish community in Iran is under pressure. Like other Iranians, also Jewish Iranians are oppressed.

"The Jewish people must admit to whatever the Islamic Republic tells them, to show the world that the Jewish people in Iran have religious freedom – but it’s a lie," she said. "They can easily be accused of espionage and cooperation with Israel. They can be sentenced to dreadful penalties and all their properties can be confiscated.” 

Melamed said that "the statements recently released by the Jewish community and Christian communities leaders in support of the Islamic regime in Iran during the recent protests should be given zero credibility because they were likely made under duress from the Iranian regime's Intelligence Ministry.

"Sadly the regime's thugs always direct the Jewish and other religious minority leaders in Iran to make favorable statements about the regime in the media or often parade them in front of Western news television programs to praise the regime as a part of a propaganda effort to make the regime look good," he lamented. "These Jewish  and Christian leaders in Iran are forced to comply with the regime's demands otherwise they know their communities will face possible dire consequences for their failure to comply.

"The Jewish protestors who were arrested in Iran recently are most likely younger people and I'm not at all surprised that they've joined the protests with other young Iranians in the streets there," Melamed said. "While their older Jewish parents and grandparents may have witnessed or experienced the brutality of the Iranian regime against Iran's Jews over the last 43 years and have fear of the regime, the younger generation of Iran's Jews has not – and are following other young people who also have no fear of the regime and are only demanding freedom for themselves.”

According to Melamed, ”the young protestors in Iran all see themselves as Iranian collectively and do not differentiate among one another based on religion as the Iranian regime does. I personally believe that since the Islamic regime has been trying to force state-sponsored religion down the throats of these young people for so long, they are altogether turned off by any organized religion.”

Tehran-raised Jew: Iranian Jews want to see Islamic regime toppled

George Haroonian, an Iranian-American Jew who was born in Tehran, told the Post that "It is absolutely normal that young Iranian Jews like other young Iranians would participate in" the protests against the regime. 

"Their arrests in general does not mean that they have been pinpointed as Jews. All are young men. The number of arrestees is so high, they do not have enough people to interrogate them."

He added that "a lot of Iranian Jews do not, traditionally, want to speak up. Families are not saying their names or asking people to fight for them. They are fearful the authorities will hurt them, like other Iranians – nothing unusual with this regime. The young man who was executed yesterday, his family did not speak up."

Haroonian, who is one of the leading experts on Iranian Jews in the US, said that "Jews who live in Iran would very much like to see a government that is not an Islamic religious," adding that the "Iranian Jewish leadership estimates 10,000 to 12,000" Jews live in Iran, although "the real number could be lower or higher."