IRAN: Iran's lone Jewish MP says "great regret and sorrow" in Jewish community over premiere's stance on HolocaustRecord ID: 313676
- Title: IRAN: Iran's lone Jewish MP says "great regret and sorrow" in Jewish community over premiere's stance on Holocaust
- Date: 13th April 2007
- Summary: (MER1) TEHRAN, IRAN (RECENT) (REUTERS) MOTAMED STANDING ON STAGE SPEAKING AT OUTSET OF TOUR ORGANISED BY JEWISH COMMITTEE OF TEHRAN, WHICH TOOK FOREIGN AMBASSADORS AND DIGNITARIES AND LEADING FIGURES IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY TO VISIT JEWISH CENTRES VARIOUS OF AUDIENCE SEATED AT TABLES
- Reuters ID: LVA3NTQ0KMS4E5VC2G0ENZFC720I
- Duration: 00:00:14
- Topics: International Relations,Domestic Politics
- Story Text: As the sole Parliamentarian representative of Iran's Jewish community, Maurice Motamed felt he had to confront the Islamic Republic's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he sparked international condemnation by terming the Holocaust "a myth."
"The comments of Mr. Ahmadinejad have been the cause of great regret and sorrow in the Jewish community," said Motamed.
"How can he (say this), without paying any attention to all the evidence and documentation, the historical facts, and all this literature, the articles that have been written in reference to this issue. It is impossible to deny it. I as a Member of Parliament representing the Jewish people announced that this was a huge insult to the Jewish community throughout the world," Motamed continued.
Motamed, the only Jewish MP in Iran's 290-member Majlis, said Ahmedinejad has qualified his remarks on the Holocaust, saying he was not anti-Jewish but anti-Zionist, since he made them in December of 2005.
Ahmadinejad, who also said Israel should be "wiped off the map," has accused the West and Zionists of using the Holocaust to justify the creation of the state of Israel at the expense of Palestinians.
Ahmadinejad's government also hosted a conference in December that questioned the killing of six million Jews by the Nazis, saying human suffering in the Holocaust was used to make "political points".
Tehran drew condemnation from the West, the Vatican and Israel. The 192-member U.N. General Assembly also adopted a resolution without a vote condemning Holocaust denials in response to the conference.
The Jewish community in Iran, numbering some 25,000 out of a population of around 69 million, is the largest in the Middle East outside Israel.
Their history in the country stretches back over 2,500 years to the ancient Persian empire. They are sometimes called "Esther's Children" after a Jewish queen of Persia.
Jews faced intermittent persecution in Iran for centuries but flourished with the ascent of the pro-western Pahlavi dynasty in the 1920s.
Since Israel's creation in 1948, more than 40,000 Iranian Jews have moved to the Jewish state, with the last big wave arriving after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.
A special diplomatic arrangement guarantees that contacts between Iran's Jews and friends and family in Israel continue, explained Motamed.
"Because of religious obligations -- just as Muslims have religious duties such as going to the Haj and other holy places -- the Iranian Jewish community also has religious obligations. Fortunately for Iranian Jews, for about the past five years Iranian Jews have been able to travel easily to Israel and return to Iran. There is even the possibility for Iranian Jews who have been living in Israel for years to travel easily to Iran and return to Israel by presenting their travel documents to Iranian consulates in different countries," Motamed said.
During a tour organised by the Jewish Committee of Tehran which took foreign ambassadors and diplomats and Jewish leaders around Jewish centres in the capital, Motamed said said Jews in the country live in relative freedom.
The delegation visited a Jewish secondary school, an old people's home and a synagogue, and attended a musical performance of traditional Jewish Iranian music.
"Members of the Jewish community in Iran live in the same way as other Iranians. There is no real difference in their way of life. I can say that the Jewish people live without any conditions being placed on them, just as the other Iranians do," Motamed said.
Iran's constitution guarantees a Jewish representative in parliament -- The Armenian, Assyrian and Zoroastrian minorities together hold a further four seats -- and recognises Jewish laws on personal status including marriage, divorce, inheritance and burial.
Religious minorities are largely tolerated in Iran, have freedom of worship and some exemptions from the Islamic Republic's strict rules in the private spaces of their own communities. There are, however, certain military and medical jobs from which they are barred.
Yet Jews in Iran are often regarded with suspicion by the government.
The U.S. State Department took Iran to task for its "harsh and oppressive treatment" of religious minorities. In its 2006 annual "Report on International Religious Freedom" around the world, it found deterioration in what it called "the extremely poor status of respect for religious freedom" in Iran.
The assessment cited reports of imprisonment, harassment, intimidation and discrimination based on religious beliefs in Iran, even among Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians -- the only legally recognized religious minorities.
Most of Motamed's family left Iran after the 1979 revolution, but Motamed, a 62-year-old engineer by education, stayed.
Motamed said there were about 14,000 Jews living in Tehran, which boasts 20 active synagogues, while the remainder of the country's Jews live in Shiraz and a number of small communities scattered throughout the country.
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