February 26, 2001
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) has been extremely concerned by the fate of 10 Iranian Jews from the city of Shiraz unjustly convicted of spying for Israel. These Jews, ranging in age from 23 to 49, shopkeepers, teachers and religion instructors, are innocent of these charges. Since their imprisonment became public, there have been intensive international efforts on the part of governments and individual leaders to gain their release. Their appeal to the Iranian Supreme Court has been rejected. President Mohammad Khatami and Iran’s Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have the authority to grant clemency.
Jews have lived in Persia/Iran for centuries and at times experienced great anti-Semitism and repression, including blood libels and forced conversions. While an 80,000-strong Jewish community thrived in an earlier period, following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Jewish existence became more precarious.
Today, there are up to 27,000 Jews in Iran, the majority living in Tehran. Officially, the Jewish community is considered a protected minority and is allowed to practice its religion with relative freedom. In accordance with Iranian law, there is a Jewish member of the Iranian Majlis (parliament), representing the community. However, the safety of the community depends on the actions of a strongly anti-Israel and anti-West government.
At least 17 Jews, including community leaders, have been executed since the Revolution, most accused of spying for Israel and the United States or on other charges. There have also been incidents of confiscation of Jewish property. The leadership of the Iranian Jewish community has often been forced to publicly condemn Israel and take part in anti-Israel and anti-Zionist demonstrations.
Ensuring the safety and release of the ten imprisoned Jews has been a priority for the organized American Jewish community. The JCPA urges all those with governmental and business ties to Iran to continue to press for their immediate and unconditional release.