Christians and Jews in Iran: the reality of dhimmitude. From Kevin Sites, with thanks to Gurm:
The Armenians say they’ve been in Iran for hundreds of years. Many were brought by force, enslaved by Persian ruler Agha Mohammad Khan during his wars in the Caucasus.
But now many claim Iran as their own.
“We identify ourselves with Iranian society and nationality because Armenians have been living here for centuries and centuries,” says Bishop Sebouh Sarkissian of the Archdiocese of Tehran. “Sometimes they call us religious minorities — a word I’ve never liked, even hated, because we are not a religious minority. We are citizens of this country.”
Citizens who, some say, have more privileges under the Islamic government than even Iranian Muslims.
Because they can drink and dance:
In the Armenian Club near the church, a more festive New Year’s celebration is under way. Dozens of couples twirl around the floor, their hands held high in the traditional style of Armenian dance, with live music performed by a band brought in from Armenia specifically for the occasion.
One man tells me, pouring a glass of Johnny Walker Red whisky over ice, “We have more freedoms than even the Muslims. They would never be able to do this.”
Christians are allowed to have alcohol in their homes and sometimes for holiday celebrations, but for the Muslim population it’s strictly forbidden.
Others at the party agree, saying they don’t face discrimination in Iran and can even travel more freely, usually to Armenia and to the United States.
Of course they will say that. What would you say if you were a Christian in Iran talking to a Western reporter? But the State Department’s 2005 Religious Freedom Report says this: “Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians are the only recognized religious minorities who are guaranteed freedom to practice their religion; however, members of these recognized minority religious groups have reported imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based on their religious beliefs.”
One woman is more circumspect about life for Armenians in Iran. “We have a little hole here in Iran,” she says, “but we’re very good at filling it with happiness.”
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Iran also has a Jewish minority, which at its peak numbered about 80,000. Shortly after the Islamic Revolution, many immigrated to the U.S. and some to Israel, leaving a community of about 25,000 today.
Still, it is the largest Jewish community in the Middle East, outside of Israel.
At the Jewish Community Center in Tehran, Dr. Unes Hammai-Lalehzar says the Jewish population has had its ups and downs, but he doesn’t believe there’s any discrimination from the general public….
And while they say they don’t face discrimination from their fellow Iranians, Jews here can’t be considered for jobs as teachers, unless they are teaching members of their own community. Government jobs, even junior level positions, are also off limits….