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WikiLeaks: 2006-08-16: 06DUBAI5246: IRPO: the Status of Iran's Assyrian and Jewish Communities

by WikiLeaks. 06DUBAI5246: August 16, 2006.

Posted: Thursday, October 04, 2012 at 05:50 PM UT


Viewing cable 06DUBAI5246, IRPO: THE STATUS OF IRAN'S ASSYRIAN AND JEWISH COMMUNITIES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06DUBAI5246 2006-08-16 13:03 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Dubai
VZCZCXRO1834
RR RUEHBC RUEHKUK
DE RUEHDE #5246/01 2281303
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 161303Z AUG 06
FM AMCONSUL DUBAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3118
INFO RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 1711
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0127
RUEHKB/AMEMBASSY BAKU 0005
RUEHYE/AMEMBASSY YEREVAN 0002
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 0149
RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 6110
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBAI 005246 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR DRL, R, NEA 
NSC FOR M. SINGH 
ALSO FOR USDAO ABU DHABI 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  8/15/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM IR
SUBJECT: IRPO: THE STATUS OF IRAN'S ASSYRIAN AND JEWISH COMMUNITIES 
 
REF: A. A. DUBAI 5191 
 
     B. REF B. DUBAI 0052 
     C. REF C. DUBAI 3131 
 
DUBAI 00005246  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Timothy M. Brys, Acting Chief Iran Regional 
Presence Office, Dubai, UAE. 
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 
 
 
 
1.(C) Summary: In early August, Iran's Assyrian and Jewish 
Majles deputies addressed the ramifications of discrimination 
against Iran's religious minorities generally and against the 
Assyrian and Jewish communities specifically. Although 
conditions have improved since Khatami's administration, 
minorities continue to emigrate and tread carefully. End Summary. 
 
2.(C) On August 2, Iran Regional Presence Office (IRPO) Chief 
and IRPOoff spoke with Yonathan Bet Kolia, Iran's Assyrian MP, 
and Secretary of the Asian Chapter of the Assyrian Universal 
Alliance, an umbrella group of Assyrian organizations worldwide. 
Bet Kolia is in his second term. He sits on the Majles Cultural 
Commission. On August 7, IRPO Chief and IRPOoff met with Moris 
Motamed, Iran's Jewish MP. Also in his second term, Motamed 
works for an Iranian topography consulting company. In addition 
to speaking about Iranian political issues (ref A), the MPs 
described the status of Iran's officially recognized religious 
minorities. (Note: Article 64 of Iran's constitution reserves 
one seat for Zoroastrians, one for Jews, one for Assyrian and 
Chaldean Christians, one for northern Armenian Christians, and 
one for southern Armenian Christians. Bahais and Sunnis are not 
recognized religious minorities. End Note.) 
 
A Snapshot of the Assyrian and Jewish Communities 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
3.(C) Bet Kolia said government figures put Iran's Assyrian 
population at 25,000-30,000, but he estimates the real number is 
closer to 15,000. The Assyrian community revolves primarily 
around the town of Orumiyeh in northwestern Iran, although many 
live in Tehran. He said Assyrians have trickled out of Iran 
since the Islamic Revolution, when many families sent their sons 
abroad to avoid military service during the Iran-Iraq war. Many 
other family members subsequently followed, which encouraged 
even more emigration. Bet Kolia claimed Assyrians also leave 
because of discrimination and insecurity. 
 
4.(C) Motamed estimated Iran contains 25,000 Jews, primarily in 
Tehran and Shiraz. He claimed Jews emigrate more slowly than 
Iran's other religious minorities. Bet Kolia said -- and Motamed 
confirmed -- Assyrians are leaving Iran at about three times the 
Jewish rate. 
 
Discrimination Against Minorities 
--------------------------------- 
 
5.(C) Bet Kolia and Motamed said legal discrimination continues 
toward Iran's four officially recognized religious minorities. 
Religious minorities do not receive the same legal reparations 
as Muslims. If a minority breaks a Muslim's arm, for example, 
the Muslim can demand the minority's arm be broken but not 
vice-versa. The only exception to this rule is "blood money," 
where minorities collect the same reparations as Muslims for 
wrongful death. Inheritance laws also favor Muslims over 
minorities. The Muslim child of a minority father obtains all of 
his father's inheritance. His wife and other children get 
nothing. To reclaim property seized during the Islamic 
Revolution, Motamed said Jews must prove they are not Zionists, 
a nearly impossible task. In contrast, Bet Kolia said most 
prominent Ayatollahs and MPs he contacts to support more 
egalitarian laws respond positively. Motamed also receives 
support for the Jewish community from some conservative MPs. 
 
6.(C) Motamed said after Israeli Independence Day (late May) a 
magazine published photos of Israeli and American synagogues 
draped with Israeli flags. The magazine claimed the synagogues 
were from Tehran and Shiraz. Motamed protested in the Majles and 
speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel supported him, reprimanding the 
magazine. Motamed said this constituted the first time a Majles 
speaker supported the Jewish community against anti-Semitism. 
Still, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel demonstrations occurred in 
 
DUBAI 00005246  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
Shiraz after the pictures' publication. Motamed met Shiraz's 
Friday prayer leader and intelligence chief who promised to 
ensure the Jewish community would not encounter more problems. 
He said the incident was unusual because anti-Semitic programs 
occur infrequently on television and radio. Recent events in 
Gaza and Lebanon have raised tensions, but the Jews' situation 
has not eroded. Twenty Jews recently returned from visiting 
relatives in Israel without incident, and Motamed said the 
community takes a clear "we are Iranians first, Jews second" 
approach. Bet Kolia said Assyrians also feel discrimination but 
did not elaborate. 
 
7.(C) Motamed said President Ahmadinejad has tempered his 
holocaust statements after both former president Mohammad 
Khatami and former Majles speaker Mehdi Karrubi objected. 
Motamed claimed he has not been targeted for criticizing 
Ahmadinejad in the Majles and international press over the issue. 
 
Khatami's Improvements 
---------------------- 
 
8.(C) Despite continuing emigration and discrimination, Bet 
Kolia and Motamed indicated the climate for Iran's religious 
minorities has improved since Khatami's 1997 election. Bet Kolia 
said Khatami's administration revoked the requirement for 
minority food stores and restaurants to carry a sign indicating 
minority ownership. For instance, Khatami famously ate at a 
minority restaurant, indicating Muslims could do so. (Note: Some 
Shi'a consider food touched by non-Muslims unclean and will not 
buy from non-Muslim food stores or eat at non-Muslim 
restaurants. End Note.) Khatami also started appropriating 2 
million dollars per year for minorities to refurbish places of 
worship or sponsor cultural events, a trend they say continues 
under Ahmadinejad. Bet Kolia and Motamed both reported seeing 
this money used to renovate churches and synagogues in their 
communities, respectively (ref B). (Note: On August 4, IRNA 
reported a Christian official in Tehran claimed the city's four 
churches may collapse if they do not receive promised funds. End 
Note.) 
 
Minority Religious Education 
---------------------------- 
 
9.(C) Bet Kolia said Assyrian children study the Assyrian 
language and Christianity in school, while their Muslim 
classmates learn Qur'an and Islamic history. All pupils study 
secular subjects together. The concours university entrance 
exam, which all Iranian high school students must pass before 
applying to college, tests Assyrian students on their heritage 
as opposed to Islam. Bet Kolia claimed religious education 
occurs in a similar fashion for other religious minorities. 
 
The Assyrian Community in Iraq 
------------------------------ 
 
10.(C) Bet Kolia said Assyrians in Iraq have not been targets of 
violence. General insecurity, however, has caused many to flee 
to Syria and Jordan, but not Iran, as they did under the Shah. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
11.(C) Bet Kolia and Motamed stressed life for recognized 
minorities in Iran is not as bad as sometimes portrayed. Yet, 
minorities continue to emigrate and tread lightly because of 
legal inequality and periodic discrimination. Indeed, both Bet 
Kolia and Motamed said they have thought about emigrating. 
BRYS

 



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