Shavei Israel’s role in saving Neda Amin
Neda Amin was an Iranian blogger writing for the Times of Israel Persian-language website. A journalist who was critical of the Iranian regime, Amin had left Iran for Turkey in 2014.
A few months ago, Amin contacted the Times of Israel with a desperate message: her life was in danger. The Turkish authorities didn’t like that she was writing for an Israeli publication and planned to kick her out of the country.
If no other country would take her in, she was told, she would sent back to Iran, “where she would likely face torture, rape and execution due to her work for an Israeli news site and her opposition to the Iranian regime,” wrote Rachel Avraham of the Center for Near East Policy Research on the Israel HaYom website.
That couldn’t happen, Avraham declared, and she set out trying to help Amin find a new home “where she could work freely as a journalist without fearing for her life.”
The most logical place for Amin to emigrate was Israel, given her connection with The Times of Israel that launched the whole controversy. But how could she get into Israel? Should she seek asylum?
Or was there perhaps another alternative?
Avraham turned to Shavei Israel. Amin had told Avraham that she had a Jewish grandparent. The Israeli Embassy in Ankara gave Amin erroneous information, saying that because her mother was not Jewish, Israel would not accept her.
We at Shavei Israel assured Amin that her Jewish roots were enough to enable her to make aliyah under Israel’s Law of Return and encouraged them to reach out directly to the Jewish Agency.
They did exactly that and in addition to the Jewish Agency, the Israeli Consulate, the Israeli Journalist Association and U.N. Watch all jumped in to help.
Amin’s last days in Turkey were like a Midnight Express nightmare. She was warned to stay off the streets because there were Iranian Revolutionary Guard spies watching her. She should take taxis to ensure she would not be kidnapped on her way to the airport. During her last nights in Turkey, she moved between homes of friends to stay safe.
Amin finally got to the airport, only to be refused exit by the Turkish authorities who were reportedly peeved that widespread media reporting in Turkey that she was being granted asylum in Israel. Only after considerable back and forth did Amin made it to the plane. She landed 2 hours later at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv – complete with her 27-kilo German Shephard named Chika, whom Amin says is the love of her life.
Times of Israel editor David Horovitz said that he’s very proud of the State of Israel. “We believed that a life was in danger and we acted to ensure that the danger was averted,” he wrote. “A little episode in the life of our nation. A good little episode.”
A week after arriving in Israel, Amin enrolled in Hebrew language classes at Jerusalem’s Ulpan Etzion. Will she reclaim her Jewish heritage? That remains to be seen. But she’s safe. And Shavei Israel is proud to have played a part, however small, in this incredible life-changing saga.