November 1, 2016: Siamak Morsadegh, “the number one Jew” in Iran, was recently sent to Paris as a part of the delegation led by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Foreign Policy and National Security Committee. Boroujerdi introduced Morsadegh as the only Jewish MP of Iran and said that he was honoured by his presence.
Morsadegh has been an MP in Iran for the past nine years. Last year, with votes of the 70% Jewish population, he was re-elected. Jewish have a reserved seat in the parliament.
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“As the representatives of the religions, we are not so involved in political life. Our main role is regulating minority life through the government and improving the situation of our coreligionists. Generally, we are in the Center, not Left or Right. As a small community, we are not interested in factions and political disagreements. Religious minorities have different political activity. I was chosen by a heterogeneous political group, and I should have a moderate stance and deal mainly with cultural and social issues. Not as a political representative.” said Morsadegh at the International Diplomatic Academy.
Morsadegh was born in a family of much Jewish community’s leaders in Shiraz. He was actively involved in the socialist youth movement while studying medical. During the revolution, he was the editor in chief of a Jewish newspaper. After served he was appointed the director of the Jewish Hospital, Sapir and the head of the Jewish committee of Tehran. He has four children. His wife is writing her doctoral thesis on genetics at Tehran University.
He says, “I pray in Hebrew, but think in Farsi. I am religious and observe the Sabbath like most of Iran’s Jews.”
During the first visit of the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, to the UN General Assembly in 2013, he condemned Israel and its politics and praised the ideal conditions for Jews in Iran. His presence and quotes made him a sensation at the Assembly.
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Morsadegh said, “Iran is much safer for Jews than France and there is no need for security at synagogues.” Just a single soldier guards the synagogue. The number of attendees at the central synagogue on Tehran is quite high.
Jews have never been prohibited from entering the holy cities of Iran. They live in Mashhad and Shiraz in Tehran and Isfahan. Religious freedom is exercised in the state. There are many kosher butcher and kosher restaurants. Many Jewish organizations deal with the preservation of sites for ceremonies. However, being a minority in a Muslim state creates a problem.
Five years ago, Jewish schools were open on Saturday. But now, Jewish children can go to a public or a Jewish school. Those who attend the public school can attend the synagogue and the Jewish school on holidays and learn Torah, Gemara, Mishnah, and Talmud. Also, the compensation payment after the death of a Muslim and a non-Muslim was different but after Ayatollah Khamenei released a fatwa, the payment was made equal.
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However, there are still many difficulties faced by the Jewish community. The highest position attainable by a Jewish is the Member of Parliament. A Jew cannot be a minister, president of deputy minister. If a Jew wishes to hold these positions, he needs to get the highest degree possible from the university and teach. Another issue is the inheritance law, which favors Muslims or Muslim converts. Beneficiaries from other religions are disinherited.
According to Morsadegh, “the Iranian government distinguished between Jews and Zionists. And to be a Jew does not mean that you agree with everything Israel does. When there is a criticism of Israel, it does not constitute a problem for us. True, there may be people who start to ask questions about Jews during a bad crisis with Israel, but in our daily life, we see Judaism and Zionism as separate entities.”
Morsadegh believes that everyone knows the reality of Holocaust. He said, “We sent a letter to Ahmedinejad in which we said that this was unacceptable behavior. Holocaust denial is not a national interest of the Iranian people. Holocaust denial will only serve to help, for example, the extreme Right in Israel and it increased Islamophobia and Iranophobia in Israel. Holocaust denial is politically worthless. It did not even contribute anything to the Palestinians. I recently read a book by Abu Iyad, in which he said that Palestinians who cooperated with Hitler during World War II did damage to the Palestinian people.”
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According to Morsadegh, “The Muslim extremists in the world need Netanyahu and Netanyahu need them. They are supposedly against one another, but in my opinion, they help each other in their election campaigns and in sustaining the balance of power.”
Morsadegh believes that a war with Israel is not an option. Any war in the Middle East would be a suicidal mission. But Iran will continue developing its missile capabilities as these missiles would be their only defense against the 200 nuclear bombs possessed by the Zionists.
– Prepared by Diksha Arya of NewsGram. Twitter: @diksha_arya53