BBC: Iran’s proud Jews – “anti-Semitism is a European phenomenon”

Although Iran and Israel are bitter enemies, few know that Iran is home to the largest number of Jews anywhere in the Middle East outside Israel.

About 25,000 Jews live in Iran and most are determined to remain no matter what the pressures – as proud of their Iranian culture as of their Jewish roots. […]

It is dawn in the Yusufabad synagogue in Tehran and Iranian Jews bring out the Torah and read the ancient text before making their way to work. It is not a sight you would expect in a revolutionary Islamic state, but there are synagogues dotted all over Iran where Jews discreetly practise their religion.

“Because of our long history here we are tolerated,” says Jewish community leader Unees Hammami, who organised the prayers. He says the father of Iran’s revolution, Imam Khomeini, recognised Jews as a religious minority that should be protected. As a result Jews have one representative in the Iranian parliament.

“Imam Khomeini made a distinction between Jews and Zionists and he supported us,” says Mr Hammami. […]

In the Yusufabad synagogue the announcements are made in Persian – most Iranian Jews don’t really speak Hebrew well.

Jews have lived in Persia for nearly 3,000 years – the descendants of slaves from Babylon saved by Cyrus the Great. […]

It is one of only four Jewish charity hospitals worldwide and is funded with money from the Jewish diaspora – something remarkable in Iran where even local aid organisations have difficulty receiving funds from abroad for fear of being accused of being foreign agents.

Most of the patients and staff are Muslim these days, but director Ciamak Morsathegh is Jewish.

“Anti-Semitism is not an eastern phenomenon, it’s not an Islamic or Iranian phenomenon – anti-Semitism is a European phenomenon,” he says, arguing that Jews in Iran even in their worst days never suffered as much as they did in Europe. […]

In one of Tehran’s six remaining kosher butcher’s shops, everyone has relatives in Israel. […]

In between chopping up meat, butcher Hersel Gabriel tells me how he expected problems when he came back from Israel, but in fact the immigration officer didn’t say anything to him. […]

“Whatever they say abroad is lies – we are comfortable in Iran – if you’re not political and don’t bother them then they won’t bother you,” he explains. […]

His customer, middle-aged housewife Giti agrees, saying she can easily talk to her two sons in Tel Aviv on the telephone and visit them. […]

“In the last five years the government has allowed Iranian Jews to go to Israel freely, meet their families and when they come back they face no problems,” says Mr Mohtamed. […]

The exodus of Jews from Iran seems to have slowed down – the first wave was in the 1950s and the second was in the wake of the Iranian Revolution.

Those Jews who remain in Iran seem to have made a conscious decision to stay put.

“We are Iranian and we have been living in Iran for more than 3,000 years,” says the Jewish hospital director Ciamak Morsathegh.

Source: BBC News

Other interesting posts on Jewish Iranians: http://theotheriran.com/tag/jews/

Advertisements

Ararat Armenian Sports Club and it’s stars

the Ararat Armenian Sports Club. Vanak is home to a high concentration of Armenians; half of the approximately 80,000 Armenians in Iran live in Tehran, and most of those Tehrani Armenians live within Vanak and its orbit.

The Ararat Armenian Sports Club predates the Revolution and predates Reza Shah Pahlavi.

The Sports Club is home to FC Ararat Tehran, a borderline-defunct soccer club that produced two heroes of Iranians, Armenians, and of course Armenian-Iranians. Andranik Eskandarian played for two years at Ararat before moving onto Taj (now Esteghlal due to yet another Revolution-necessitated makeover) as a stalwart defender. His national teams won the 1968, ‘72, and ‘76 and went to the country’s first World Cup in 1978. Andranik would later move to the United States to play for a legendary New York Cosmos side. A generation later, Andranik Teymourian would play youth ball for Ararat before moving on to Bolton in the English Premier League and one of the most iconic images from the 2006 World Cup: Teymourian collapes after Iran’s game against Angola

Someone like Teymourian can be a hero for Iranians of all religions without a hint of conflict.

The situation of Armenians (and other Christians) in Iran is of course far more normal than prevailing Western discourse may have an outside observer understand. Armenians have different treatment from most Iranians, with special privileges to consume pork, alcohol, and having Sundays off work that Muslims do not enjoy. But they are still effusively Iranian. Surp Khatch, for example, was built in part to memorialize the thousands of Armenian service members killed in the Iran-Iraq War. When Teymourian crosses himself before a match, his countrymen cheer this act as the mark of a pious Iranian.

Unfortunately, these days Ararat FC is far from its glory days. The team last competed in Iran’s top league in the 1995-1996 season.

http://ajammc.com/2012/12/01/towards-an-armenian-iranian-modern-tehran-church-architecture-post-revolutionary-soccer-culture/

About famous Armenian churches in Iran and Armenian Iranians in general

One of the finest examples of Iranian architecture in the neighborhood is an Armenian chapel, Surp Khatch.

Surp Khatch Chapel - Tehran Iran

Surp Khatch Chapel holds a peculiar significance within Armenian-Iranian life. There are dozens of Armenian churches within Iran, mostly in Tehran and the western provinces. Vank in New Julfa deserves special recognition, of course, for its role as the heart of the Isfahani community, brought to Persia by Shah Abbas I in the 17th century.

Vank Cathedral - New Julfa, Isfahan

The Prelacy – the bureaucratic head of the Armenian Church in Iran – makes its home in Saint Sarkis, a church that dates back to 1970.

Saint Sarkis Apostolic Church - Tehran, Iran

Armenian-Iranian architecture, particularly Surp Khatch, fits comfortably within the Iranian modernist idiom. The situation of Armenians (and other Christians) in Iran is of course far more normal than prevailing Western discourse may have an outside observer understand. Armenians have different treatment from most Iranians, with special privileges to consume pork, alcohol, and having Sundays off that Muslims do not enjoy. But they are still effusively Iranian. Surp Khatch, for example, was built in part to memorialize the thousands of Armenian service members killed in the Iran-Iraq War. When Teymourian (popular Armenian Iranian football star) crosses himself before a match, his countrymen cheer this act as the mark of a pious Iranian.

The negotiating of political space for religious minorities in an explicitly Islamic Republic is an ongoing political issue that is going strong on its fourth decade. But political concerns hardly frame daily life; Armenians and other religious minorities in Iran generally name their primary concerns as drug use and a rapidly deteriorating economy. The communities’ problems aren’t necessarily their status as minorities, but the general problems that stem from being Iranian. Indeed, minorities in Iran are well-integrated not only socially and culturally but politically as well. There are five Armenians in Parliament (compared to four Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, three Jews, and two Zoroastrians in the 290-seat Majlis). There are also Armenian observers to the Expediency Council and the Guardian Council.

http://ajammc.com/2012/12/01/towards-an-armenian-iranian-modern-tehran-church-architecture-post-revolutionary-soccer-culture/

Loris Tjeknavorian – Armenian-Iranian composer and holder of Iran’s “Top Medal of Art”

Loris Tjeknavorian (also spelled Cheknavarian, born 13 October 1937) is an Iranian-born Armenian composer and conductor.

He was born in Borujerd in the province of Lorestan, southwestern Iran, and was educated in Tehran. In the course of his career, Tjeknavarian has made about 100 recordings (with RCA, Philips, EMI, ASV, etc.) and written more than 75 compositions (symphonies, operas, a requiem, chamber music, concerto for piano, violin, guitar, cello and pipa (Chinese lute), ballet music, choral works and an oratorio. And over 45 Film mosaics. Tjeknavarian also has conducted international orchestras throughout the world: in Austria, UK, US, Canada, Hungary, Iran, Finland, former USSR, Armenia, Thailand, Hong Kong, South Africa, Denmark, Israel, etc. In October 2010 he became the Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Glendale Symphony Orchestra in Southern California. Glenn Treibitz, president of the Glendale Symphony said; “with Loris Tjeknavorian at the helm, our orchestra will automatically become one of the most prominent in the Western USA.”

Awards

  • Austria’s Presidential Gold Medal of Artistic Merit (2008)
  • Austria’s Cross of Honor for Science and Art, first class (2008)

Awarded “Top Medal of Art”, Iran’s highest medal for performing arts (2002)

Source: wikipedia.org/wiki/Loris_Tjeknavorian

Iranian Armenians rally in Tehran to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

Thousands of Iranian Armenians rallied in Tehran on Friday, protesting in front of the Turkish Embassy to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

Many in the crowd, who marched from the Armenian Church in Tehran to the Turkish Embassy, held signs in Farsi and English asking the international community to recognize the genocide, while others chanted slogans calling for justice and the downfall of the Turkish government.

“What Armenians demand now is that the Turkish government recognize [the massacre] as genocide and accept its legal consequences,” Karen Khanlari told Iran’s Press TV during the protests.

There were different events organized to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on April 23 and April 24. In Tehran were the religious ceremonies held at the St. Sarkis Cathedral.

Following sovereign countries have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide:
Argentina (2003) , Austria (2015), Belgium (1998), Bolivia (2014), Canada (1996), Chile (2007), Cyprus (1975) was the first country to raise the issue to the UN General Assembly, Czech Republic (2015), France (1998), Germany (2015), Greece (1999), Holy See (2000), Italy (2000), Lithuania (2005), Lebanon (1997), Netherlands (2004), Poland (2005), Russia (1995), Slovakia (2004), Sweden (2010), Switzerland (2003), Uruguay (1965) was the first country to recognize the events as genocide, Venezuela (2005).

On Apr 24, 2015 the Bulgarian parliament approved a resolution using the phrase “mass extermination of the Armenian People in the Ottoman Empire”. The United States of America, Israel, the United Kingdom, Australia or Spain do not use the term genocide to refer to these facts.

Robert Beglaryan and Karen Khanlaryan, MPs of Armenian origin, have also had speeches in Iran Majlis concerning the Armenian Genocide Centennial. “We call on the government and the President Rouhani in particular to call the real facts by their name. That will make it possible to support the security in the region,” Robert Beglaryan said in his speech.

Iran has been conducting a moderate and cautious policy regarding the Armenian Genocide over the last years. Remarkably, though, the MPs of the 6th Majlis of Iran condemned the Armenian Genocide.

Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, then President of Iran, visited Tsitsernakaberd during his official visit to Yerevan on September 9, 2004. Vice president of Iran, Hamid Baghaei, pronounced the word ‘genocide’ during the conference ‘Iran: The Bridge of Victory’ in August 2010. “The government of Ottoman Turkey committed genocide in 1915; and a certain number of Armenians fell victim to it,” he said although the statement was refuted not to aggravate the relations with Turkey.

However, both the political and religious elite of Iran, as well as ordinary citizens admit the fact of the Armenian Genocide, as according to the Iranian sources, the Ottoman Turks have not only perpetrated genocide against the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks, but also have slaughtered many Iranians in Urmia Region in 1918.

In Iran there are Armenian Genocide Memorials in Abadan, Ahraz, Arak, Isfahan, Tehran and Urumieh, all of them on Armenian Churches ground. In Abadan the Genocide Memorial was renovated since it was next to the church damaged during the Iran Iraq war.

Other Commemoration events worldwide:
1. Los Angeles Times | Armenian Genocide Anniversary Apr 24, 2015
2. The Huffington Post | Poignant photos from around the world show Armenian Genocide has not been forgotten

Sources: www.hyeli.com, Wikipedia | Armenian Genocide recognitionarmenian-genocide.org | Recognition countries, Mehr News Agency | Photos 1, Mehr News Agency | Photos 2, IRNA | Photos 1, IRNA | Photos 2, ISNA | Photos 1, Tasnim News Agency | Photos, panorama>>am | Asory Genocide, panorama>>am | Rouhani letter, armenian-genocide.org | Genocide Memorials in Iran, uacla.com | Armenian Genocide Memorials, team-aow.discuforum.info | Monuments Commemoratifs du Genocide Armenien

Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province: Saint Stepanos Monastery near Jolfa

The St. Stepanos Monastery (Armenian: Maghardavank) is an Armenian monastery about 15 km northwest of Jolfa, East Azarbaijan Province, northwestern Iran. It is situated in a deep canyon along the Arax river on the Iranian side of the border between Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and Iran. Since 2008 it is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List together with the St. Thaddeus Monastery and the Chapel of Dzordzor.

The general structure mostly resembles Armenian and Georgian architecture and the inside of the building is adorned with beautiful paintings by Honatanian, a renowned Armenian artist. Hayk Ajimian, an Armenian scholar and historian, recorded that the church was originally built in the ninth century AD, but repeated earthquakes in Azarbaijan completely eroded the previous structure. The church was rebuilt during the rule of Shah Abbas the Second.

History
The first monastery was built in the seventh century (AD 649) and completed in the tenth century. However, St Bartholomew first founded a church on the site around AD 62 but it was partly destroyed during the wars between the Seljuks and the Byzantine Empire in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Following the conquest of the region by the Mongols of Hulagu, grandson of Genghis Khan, in the middle of the thirteenth century, Christians benefited from the favorable Ilkhanid dynasty, and a peace agreement is signed between the Armenian Church and the Ilkhans. The monastery was restored in the second half of the thirteenth century.

The monastery was completely rebuilt in 1330 under the leadership of Zachariah. St. Stepanos Monastery found the height of its cultural and intellectual influence in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The monastery produced paintings and illuminated manuscripts, in areas as diverse as religion, history and philosophy.

In the early fifteenth century, the new Safavid dynasty protected the Armenians but the region is at the center of the rivalry between the Safavids and the Ottomans, who invaded Western Armenia in 1513. St. Stepanos in the sixteenth century observed a gradual decline until Shah Abbas I decided to evacuate the region from its inhabitants in 1604. The monastery then was abandoned. From 1650, the Safavids, however, decided to occupy the region again, and the damaged and abandoned St. Stepanos monastery was restored in the middle of the century.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the area became a challenge for the conquest of the Russian Empire. Yerevan was conquered by the Russians in 1827. The border between Persia and Russia was established on the Araxes by the Treaty of Turkmenchay. Consequently part of the population was displaced by force to Russian Armenia. The Qajar rulers continued to protect the Armenians. They encouraged the rebuilding of St. Stepanos Monastery between 1819 and 1825.

The monastery has undergone several restorations recently twentieth and twenty-first centuries, especially since 1974.

On UNESCO World Heritage List
The Armenian monasteries in Northwestern Iran have borne continuous testimony, since the origins of Christianity and certainly since the 7th century, to Armenian culture in its relations and contact with the Persian and later the Iranian civilizations. They bear testimony to a very large and refined panorama of architectural and decorative content associated with Armenian culture, in interaction with other regional cultures: Byzantine, Orthodox, Assyrian, Persian and Muslim. The monasteries have survived some 2,000 years of destruction, both of human origin and as a result of natural disasters. They have been rebuilt several times in a spirit in keeping with Armenian cultural traditions.

Further information: Iran Chamber Society | Church of Saint Stephanos

Sources: Wikipedia | Saint Stepanos MonasteryIran Chamber Society | Historical Churches in Iran, Tishineh | St. Stepanos Monastery, Wikimedia Commons | Saint Stepanos Monastery, UNESCO World Heritage List | Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran, IRNA | Photos 1, IRNA | Photos 2

Photo gallery: Armenian Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on 6th of January in Isfahan, Iran

Some Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Years’ on Jan. 1, while Armenians celebrate Christmas at the same time as the Epiphany on Jan. 6.

More content on Iranian Christians on this blog: The other Iran | Christians

Sources: Mehr News Agency | Photos, Al-Monitor: the pulse of the Middle East | Iran’s Christians celebrate Christmas