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Writing Her Revolt – Tablet Magazine

This week, Pill seems again on 40 years of the Iranian Revolution.


When the anti-Shah upheavals of 1978 erupted, Iranian Jews discovered themselves, naturally, on each side of the revolutionary motion: amongst its supporters and its opponents.

As violence intensified, many wounded protesters calling for the institution of an Islamic Republic discovered sanctuary from the clashes in a relatively shocking place: the Sapir Hospital (Bimaristan-i Sapir), the Jewish hospital in Tehran.

On Sept. eight, 1978, mass demonstrations erupted in Tehran. The Shah despatched the military to shoot reside ammunition on the crowd of protesters. This occasion turned often known as Black Friday.

“That Friday the top nurse, Ms. Farangis Hasidim, referred to as me and advised me that they’re bringing many casualties to the hospital,” recollects Dr. Jalali, one of many senior officers in Sapir Hospital at the moment. “I drove to the hospital however the Zhalah [avenue] was blocked, so I glided by foot and there was capturing. … Since I used to be pleasant with the ambulance-services individuals, virtually 90 % of the injured individuals got here to Sapir Hospital, the place we handled all of them in our 4 surgical procedure rooms.”

On Dec. 11, 1978, one of many largest demonstrations towards the Shah happened in Tehran. Newspapers referred to as it a “demonstration of hundreds of thousands,” and it set a milestone within the wrestle towards the Shah’s regime. Jewish participation set data as nicely; in response to some sources, 5,000 Jews participated in these protests.Different estimates have been a lot larger. Hushang, a longtime leftist activist within the Jewish group and a member of the Affiliation of Jewish Iranian Intellectuals (AJII), a Jewish leftist activist group, helped manage the huge Jewish look that day: “In line with press stories near 12,000 Jews participated in these protests that day,” he says. “The Jewish spiritual leaders marched within the entrance row and the remainder of the Jews adopted them, displaying nice solidarity with our Iranian compatriots.”

The spiritual management sided with the younger radical group and in a way “legitimized” them. “From the primary days of the revolution we had appreciable help from spiritual leaders. Hakham Yedidia Shofet, Hakham Uriel Davidi, Rabbi David Shofet, Hakham Yosef Hamadani Cohen, and others attended and supported. … Different key figures have been Parviz Yesha‘ya, ‘Aziz Daneshrad, Ya‘qub Barkhurdar, Hushang Melamed, Dr. Manuchihr Aliyasi, and Ms. Farangis Hasidim, all performed a serious position,” Hushang says. In accordance with him, the actions of AJII helped to scale back tensions between the Muslim majority and the Jewish minority. Nevertheless, not all the spiritual leaders who joined that day did so wholeheartedly.

“It was my task to persuade Hakham Shofet to hitch us, to get him within the image,” stated Mihrdad. “He was sympathetic to the trigger however felt heavy hearted. He was reluctant to return and we informed him that it was for the sake and security of the group. We even discovered rabbinic writing and Halacha ruling that say that if the group requires you to do such and such you do it not as a result of that is your perception however as a result of the choice can be for the great of the group. So he stated he would come out.”

Shofet, then, participated regardless of early reservations, which makes him a singular case on this story. Loyalty to each the Shah and the group meant an amazing deal to him. He got here out that day and afterward not as a result of he appeared to facilitate integration of the group into the broader society however moderately to hunt safety for the group in a quickly altering actuality.

Habib’s reminiscences of this demonstration assist us to know the profound impression it had on the individuals: “We met by Darvazah-i dawlat synagogue in south Tehran and joined the primary demonstration from there. … Our indicators and chants have been: Yahudi-musalman hambastigi-i mubarak [Jewish-Muslims blessed solidarity]. It was so thrilling, I couldn’t cease crying.”

Hakham Shofet’s recollections of today categorical the identical sentiment:

In each place we stay we should respect the bulk’s opinion and approve and respect their management [not necessarily the elected or ruling leadership]. Due to this rule, in these days, with respect to those individuals, we joined them in marching for the Tasu‘a [the ninth day of the holy month of Muharram; in Shi’a tradition it symbolizes the day before the battle of Karbala and the preparations of Hossein] in 19 Azar Mah 1357 [Dec. 9, 1978]. Muhandis Daneshrad and different members of the Jewish Group [Anjuman] board have been on my aspect. … It was constructive and galvanizing. Most of the Muslims that led this nice march and have been liable for it welcomed us warmly, amongst them have been many Shi’i clerics.

This reminiscence is fascinating, particularly due to the truth that he didn’t brazenly oppose the Shah. There are a number of accounts of Shofet positively commenting on the Shah’s interval as unprecedented for the Iranian Jews and expressing his worry of the unclear future. In an interview, one of many individuals who made Shofet be a part of the march stated that Shofet said he would do it for the sake of the group, however he needed the march organizer to know that each Saturday when he’s providing prayers for the well being of the Shah, he means it.

Muslim protesters greeted the Jewish group by chanting, “Jewish brother, welcome, welcome” (baradar-i yahudi khush amadi, khush amadi). Once they handed by Madrasah-i ‘Alavi, they chanted, “Khomeini’s management is the idea of nationwide unity” (Rahbari-yi Khomeini asas-i vahdat-i milli). “That day,” Habib says, “all of us had tears of happiness. We have been all in help of democracy, and freedom, and the revolution.”

Regardless of the presentation of nationwide unity within the demonstration, given previous experiences, it was apparent that the protest was not about to finish peacefully. Sapir Hospital’s personnel have been nicely ready for the occasions of Tasu‘a and ‘Ashura. “That morning they referred to as me from Madrasah-i ‘Alavi and requested to maintain all of the employees and docs for the day. I acquired 70 or 80 % of the injured from everywhere in the metropolis. All of them went both to Sapir, Kurush-i Kabir because it was referred to as again then, or the Imperial Medical Middle, this example lasted for 72 hours,” recollects Jalali.

In its second problem, Tamuz revealed a two-page story titled “Sapir Hospital In the course of the Revolution” (Bimaristan-i Sapir dar jarayan-i inqilab) that described the providers offered by Sapir Hospital to the revolutionaries: “Within the turbulent months of our revolution, Kurush-i Kabir hospital, which after the revolution was renamed after Sapir, turned one of many locations that, by means of taking private dangers for the sake of the revolution, handled and facilitated the revolution.”The article cites anecdotes from senior hospital officers, resembling the top nurse, Farangis Hasidim, who, talking concerning the occasions of Black Friday and ‘Ashura, stated, “Today unfolded in sudden methods. I went to see a insurgent that arrived with a bullet damage in his leg, and he was bleeding. I instantly took him to the surgical procedure room. I had not completed treating him, when one other affected person got here in, and each minute increasingly injured arrived. For a lot of hours the hospital seemed just like the frontlines of a conflict zone.”

The hospital employees additionally had to deal with the Shah’s safety officers who got here to seek for rebels in hiding: “In the future we heard nice noise from the hospital’s yard and I noticed a myriad of individuals in uniform and plain garments [that is, secret police] in search of rebels. … For 24 hours guards circled the hospital, however we didn’t hand them anybody. … Throughout Tasu‘a and ‘Ashura your complete hospital employees stayed within the hospital for greater than 24 hours. The hospital’s ambulances cruised the streets to select up wounded protesters and convey them to the hospital to get remedy.”

Following these occasions, in late 1978 a delegation of the Jewish group went to Paris to satisfy the chief of the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. The tacit function of this journey was to make sure that Jews wouldn’t be considered enemies of the revolution however quite as its supporters. This assembly was the primary of many between the Jewish management and Khomeini. Shortly after, the hospital acquired its first recognition from Khomeini: “Because of this [the humanitarian help] Imam Khomeini, earlier than his return to Iran, had despatched a letter of gratitude to the director of the hospital, recognizing his assist and help for the wounded revolutionaries,” stated Dr. Siamak Moreh-Sedeq, one of many hospital’s leaders and the present Jewish deputy within the Majlis in an interview. He described the help given to the revolutionaries and confirmed, as soon as once more, the story of the Shah’s military siege in 1978. Receiving Khomeini’s recognition isn’t a small feat. In some ways it secured the way forward for the Jews beneath the management of the revolution.


All through the revolutionary occasions, there was a unbroken try by each revolutionary factions and the Jews to attract a transparent distinction between Jews and Zionists. This may be a theme nicely into the early revolutionary interval, however even from the time of the protest there have been a number of events on which revolutionaries and nonrevolutionaries offered methods to inform the distinction.

On Sept. 1, 1978, a number of days earlier than the escalation of Black Friday, Yousef Kohan, then the Jewish consultant within the Majlis, and one other member of the parliament, Ahmad Bani-Ahmad, met the Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Kazim Shari‘atmadari. The aim of this assembly was to have the revered ayatollah stopped the incitement towards Jews, which was turning into an issue in a number of the provinces in Iran. In his memoir, Kohan described the efforts:

At 1:30 within the afternoon of that September 1st, Bani-Ahmad referred to as me and stated, “Kohan! Put in your garments and are available to me instantly. Deliver your paperwork with you.” These days, Bani- Ahmad was in peril, as a result of he was critically opposing the Shah’s regime. I took the handle of his secret location, which was the house of one in every of his fellow Azeris, and took off instantly. Outdoors the home, a gaggle of robust Azerbaijanis have been standing and I might inform they have been armed. I requested Bani-Ahmad what was happening. “We need to go go to His Eminence Ayatollah Shari‘atmadari,” he answered.

In any case, all the problems have been humbly reported to him on that day in Qum. The Ayatollah was inclined to proclaim that the lives of Jews have been protected until in the event that they have been brokers of Israel. Bani-Ahmad advisable that “although that is right, however mentioning it is going to trigger the malefactors to take the lifetime of any Jew they need after which declare that he had been an Israeli agent. It will be higher if His Eminence issued a basic, unconditional and unambiguous command.” Many reporters and correspondents from main worldwide information businesses have been always on the alert at Shari‘atmadari’s home with their cameras, as a result of that location was the epicenter of Iranian politics, which was of curiosity to the entire world. That night, the Iranian radio and tv broadcasted this proclamation of the good Supply of Emuluation of Iranian Muslims:

“Stories are reaching us that a collection of written threats towards spiritual minorities who’re acknowledged by the Structure and revered by the Iranian Nation, have begun underneath the identify of the Clergy and the banner of Islam. Iranian minorities, have all of the liberties and the rights conceivable for the individuals of Iran. However, in response to the ruling of Islamic commandments, private rights of all of the individuals of the world and even the human rights of our enemies have been acknowledged. Spiritual Minorities, which have been recognized within the Structure, have been shoulder to shoulder with the wrestle of the Iranian nation so far as I keep in mind. They accompanied the individuals in each step of the momentous occasions of the Constitutional Revolution. I shall by no means settle for the smallest menace or intimidation towards them beneath the identify of Islam. In reality I think about such actions as an anti-Iranian and anti Islamic conspiracy. We should know that irresponsible individuals with missions of sabotage are on the prowl and are hoping to unfold the seeds of hate and disunity.”

Such a proclamation from a outstanding spiritual chief like Ayatollah Shari‘atmadari was a serious achievement for the Jewish management and actually was essential at a second when Israel was introduced up extra typically as a part of the anti-Shah slogans and a few Iranians couldn’t inform the distinction between Jews, Zionists, and Israelis.

Later that month, in the course of the occasions of Black Friday it was rumored that the Shah deployed Israeli troopers to confront the protesters. This rumor, in fact, had no foundation, however it promptly turned a problem demanding consideration on behalf of the Jewish management.

Within the 2013 documentary Earlier than the Revolution: The Untold Story of the Israeli Paradise in Iran, Nissim Levy, one of many Israeli embassy’s safety officers, recollects that as he drove by way of the streets of Tehran proper earlier than the last word victory of the revolution, he noticed graffiti that learn, “Kill Each Israeli—However Do Not Hurt the Jews.”


Shortly after the ‘Ashura occasions, the revolution took a dramatic flip when on Jan. 15, 1979, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi left Iran for good. “Shah Raft” (The Shah left), introduced the newspapers the subsequent day to the overjoyed crowds, and about two weeks later they introduced that the Imam had arrived (Imam amad). All main minority teams got here to the airport to welcome Ayatollah Khomeini again to Iran. The Jewish delegation coordinated their participation with one other outstanding chief of the revolutionary motion, Ayatollah Mohammad Bihishti.

After the set up of the brand new regime, the hospital encountered controversy. Jalali states, “One night time after the revolution they referred to as me to inform that a group of individuals from the regime got here and altered the identify of the hospital to ‘Khusraw Golisurkhi Hospital.’ A member of the left, Gol-isurkhi had been executed by the Shah.It took us a very long time, along with Parviz Yesha‘ya to vary it to Dr. Sapir Hospital.” Simin, Sapir’s relative, defined how they petitioned the federal government to have the identify modified to Dr. Sapir: “I collected proof from people who received remedy within the hospital, collected newspaper tales, letters from clerics concerning the hospital in the course of the revolution, and gave it to them in an enormous field. After a brief dialogue they pronounced him a shahid, a martyr of the revolution, and ordered to have the identify modified to Dr. Sapir Hospital.”

This episode of the identify change turned vital because the Jewish group retained administration of the hospital and the federal government acknowledged the position the hospital had performed through the revolution. Nonetheless as we speak, on the entrance to the hospital, there’s a signal welcoming sufferers, employees, and guests. The signal reads, in Hebrew and Persian, “Love thy neighbor as your self ” (Hebrew: Ve’ahavta le’re’acha kamocha; Persian: Hamnow‘at ra mesl-i khodet mud bedar), and this primarily captures the philosophy of this hospital from the times it was established by Sapir and onward.

Jews have been lively in all-Iranian organizations—such because the Tudeh—and, in fact, in sectarian, explicitly Jewish teams, such because the AJII. Nevertheless, Jews participated even in virtually solely Muslim organizations, such because the Mujahidin-i Khalq (the Individuals’s Mujahidin of Iran). The Mujahidin-i Khalq was established by members of the intelligentsia—engineers, docs, college college students, and the mental elites of the nationalist opposition factions. This group employed a captivating mixture of Marxist and Islamist discourse in its articulation of a revolutionary ideology. The Mujahidin-i Khalq was one of many key opposition organizations within the 1970s till the revolution.

One of many Jewish activists in Mujahidin-i Khalq was Edna Sabet. Sabet was born in 1955 to a Jewish Kermanshahi household that lived in Tehran. Her household belonged to the center class within the metropolis, and lots of of her relations have been American-educated engineers and industrialists. Throughout her school years at Ariyamihr Technical College in Tehran, Sabet turned politically lively and joined an underground group, Paykar. She promptly turned a member of its central committee in Tehran. In Paykar she met Ghulam Husayn Salim Aruni, whom she married later. Aruni was Muslim and have become interested in the Mujahidin-i Khalq. Quickly he joined the group and Sabet adopted go well with. They have been each outstanding activists within the motion, and their story was extensively circulated among the many Tehran teams.

The establishment of the interim revolutionary authorities prevented the Mujahidin-i Khalq from collaborating within the April 1979 elections. In consequence, the group turned towards the newly forming Islamic Republic’s authorities. Iran’s new revolutionary guards arrested (and even executed with out trial) the Mujahidin-i Khalq members who solely a short while earlier than had fought with them towards the Shah’s oppressive regime. In 1981 Aruni was captured, arrested, prosecuted, and executed within the notorious Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali’s courtroom. Sabet was arrested a couple of months later.

Proof later confirmed that Sabet by no means confronted courtroom on any fees. She was tortured in jail however remained resilient and assured. She was executed on Feb. 12, 1982, when she was solely 27 years previous. A fellow comrade from her days within the Mujahidin-i Khalq stated, “She was every thing the brand new Islamic regime feared: A courageous lady, a Jew, a leftist preventing uncompromisingly towards the very core of the Islamic Republic.”

Sabet was one of many Jews who have been members in an virtually solely Muslim group. Regardless of her tragic ending, Sabet’s story illustrates yet one more side of the complicated identities and allegiances that characterised lots of her era. Her affiliation with the Mujahidin-i Khalq and the story of Sapir Hospital in the course of the revolution exemplify the breaking of the normal frameworks of this group’s assimilation. These situations present but once more that within the late 1970s, a lot of the Jews in Iran favored their countrymen’s pursuits over their very own good or slender communal advantages.

The identical occasions, wars, philosophies, and ideologies that formed revolutionaries elsewhere on the planet impressed the era that got here of age within the 1970s in Iran. It was the time when American college students demonstrated towards the warfare in Vietnam and Sartre and Michel Foucault incited European college students and supported numerous objectives of Third World id teams. On the similar time that many nations skilled their first moments of independence, the Iranian college students’ native challenge was to wrestle towards the American-backed monarchy in Iran and institute a functioning socialist republic as an alternative. This type of republic, clearly, can be based on the beliefs of an egalitarian society, the place spiritual or ethnic affiliations play no half. The promise, thus, was to create an Iranian multiethnic, multireligious society.

The involvement of the Jews might be defined by the extent of assimilation that that they had reached by this significant second. Whereas members of their mother and father’ era within the late 1960s and early 1970s spent their very own youths paving the best way to go away the ghettos and the Jewish conventional life with a view to pursue schooling and careers within the personal and public sectors, their youngsters felt they needed to battle not for his or her standing as a marginal minority however slightly for a greater society for Iran. The Jewish id at that time served as one other element and attainable affiliation within the larger social tapestry of minorities in Iran.

Jewish members within the scholar actions, each in Iran and overseas, belonged at that time to the nationalist bourgeoisie, whether or not they acknowledged it or not. Their assimilation efforts have been fruitful, and Jewish tradition and id have been simply further labels they carried and that maybe rooted them deeper within the Iranian soil. It’s inside this context that we will start to know the institution of AJII, initiatives similar to those involving Sapir Hospital in the course of the revolution, or the participation of Jews in Muslim revolutionary actions. These all characterize the complete spectrum of nationwide belonging, from the choice of AJII’s members to profess Iranian nationalism as Jews, to Sapir Hospital’s efforts to type a partnership to offer humanitarian help (once more, even when a few of the collaborators evidently supported the Shah), and to Sabet’s option to assimilate by means of the adoption of all of the identifiers of Iranian and Islamic symbolism and rhetoric.

The massive degree of participation within the demonstrations might recommend that almost all of the Jewish inhabitants, though they didn’t take an lively position within the occasions resulting in the revolution, realized its inevitable victory and embraced the alternatives and blessings it’d deliver to the group and its future in its homeland.


Tailored from Between Iran and Zion: Jewish Histories of Twentieth-Century Iran. Copyright © 2018 the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Jr. College. All rights reserved. Utilized by permission of Stanford College Press.

Learn extra about 40 years of the Iranian Revolution in Pill’s particular collection.

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