Fellowship of ReconciliationThe Fellowship of Reconciliation joins 35 national organizations in letter to Iranian leaders on ending the violence

June 24, 2009

To the Iranian Leadership: End the Violence Immediately

To:  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, U.N. Ambassador & Permanent Representative Mohammad Khazaee

We are leaders of organizations representing tens of thousands of U.S. citizens who love Iran: its people, culture, poetry, and land. Some of our members have traveled in recent years to the Islamic Republic of Iran to build relationships between our cultures, and have returned home with images and stories of wonderful new friends and your land’s admirable humanitarian and religious cultures. We passionately urge peace between our countries, and deeply regret the unfortunate history of U.S. intervention in Iran and its sovereignty. We believe all nations and peoples have the right to live free of the threat of unjust foreign interference in their internal affairs.
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Filed Under (U.S. Relations) by admin on 25-04-2007

Quick Links:
Khamenei stamps authority on US relations, AFP http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jxlz-o2pTtBtLRTktl169QEIxL1w
Iran’s response to US shows mind-set of leadership, AP http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/21/AR2009032101079.html
Editorial: Obama strikes new tone with Tehran, Financial Times http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/617f1fb4-1713-11de-9a72-0000779fd2ac.html
Roger Cohen: From Tehran to Tel Aviv¸ International Herald Tribune http://www.iht.com/bin/printfriendly.php?id=20978866
Rami G. Khouri: Dialogue or Dictating to Iran?, Middle East Times http://www.metimes.com/International/2009/03/23/dialogue_or_dictating_to_iran/9371/
Despite Iran’s tepid response, experts hail Obama approach, McClatchy http://www.mcclatchydc.com/world/story/64536.html
Iran sets terms for U.S. ties, AP http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090322/wl_nm/us_iran_usa
‘No proof’ Iran seeks atom bomb: Russian minister, AFP http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hBPU3NuguY_rj19oOwLADdyt-E2w
John Bolton: Iran’s Axis of Nuclear Evil, Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123759986806901655.html
Amir Taheri: Iran Has Started a Mideast Arms Race, Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123776572203009141.html%20http:/online.wsj.com/search/search_center.html?KEYWORDS=AMIR+TAHERI&ARTICLESEARCHQUERY_PARSER=bylineAND
Wife of founder of Iran’s Islamic republic dies, AP http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ikwGcpqo0p2JwanEHkViYsOE0s2QD9739J480

Khamenei stamps authority on US relations, AFP, March 22, 2009
The swift response from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to US President Barack Obama’s overtures to Iran shows the supreme leader’s determination to keep a tight grip on the issue of ties with Washington, analysts said on Sunday. “He wanted to send a message to the whole world that he is the one who takes the big decisions,” said Parviz Esmaili, who is close to Iran’s dominant conservatives. “The silence of both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the foreign ministry proves it,” Esmaili told AFP. Another analyst, Said Leylaz, who is close to the reformist minority in the Iranian parliament, also commented on the unusual silence on the issue from the hardline president. “I am certain that President Ahmadinejad would have wanted to give this response to President Obama himself as that would have boosted his chances of re-election,” Leylaz said.

Iran’s response to US shows mind-set of leadership, AP, March 22, 2009
The Iranian leader’s rebuff on Saturday to President Barack Obama’s offer for dialogue was swift and sweeping: Words from Washington ring hollow without deep policy changes.  But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s response was more than just a dismissive slap at the outreach. It was a broad lesson in the mind-set of Iran’s all-powerful theocracy and how it will dictate the pace and tone of any new steps by Obama to chip away at their nearly 30-year diplomatic freeze.  ”It’s the first stage of the bargaining in classic Iranian style: Be tough and play up your toughness,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of regional politics at United Arab Emirates University. “The Iranian leaders are not about concessions at this stage. It’s still all about ideology from the Iranian side.”  For Khamenei and his inner circle, that means appearing to stay true to the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the political narrative of rejecting the United States.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/21/AR2009032101079.html <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/21/AR2009032101079.html>

Editorial: Obama strikes new tone with Tehran, Financial Times, March 22 2009
Barack Obama’s overture to Iran, delivered by video on the eve of Monday’s Iranian new year, is a smart move, tone-perfectly delivered, and a clear departure not just from George W. Bush’s bellicose attitude but the visceral animosity that has bedevilled relations between Washington and Tehran since the Islamic Revolution of 30 years ago. Mr Obama managed simultaneously to address Iran’s innate sense of cultural superiority as an ancient civilisation, and its paranoid sense of vulnerability. “The US wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations,” he said. “You have that right but it comes with real responsibilities and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilisation”. His use of the formal title of Islamic Republic implies US recognition of the revolution and abandonment of regime change. The emphasis on rights and responsibilities – the sort of discourse tailored for, say, China – suits Iran’s sense of entitlement and ambition to be acknowledged as a regional power. The address is well aimed, furthermore, not just at Iran’s leaders but at the Iranians, arguably the most instinctively pro-American people in the wider Middle East.

Roger Cohen: From Tehran to Tel Aviv¸ International Herald Tribune, March 22, 2009
With his bold message to Iran’s leaders, President Obama achieved four things essential to any rapprochement. He abandoned regime change as an American goal. He shelved the so-called military option. He buried a carrot-and-stick approach viewed with contempt by Iranians as fit only for donkeys. And he placed Iran’s nuclear program within “the full range of issues before us.” By doing so, Obama made it almost inevitable that one of the defining strategic issues of his presidency will be a painful but necessary redefinition of America’s relations with Israel as differences over Iran sharpen. I will return to that below. The innovations in the president’s Persian New Year, or Nowruz, overture to Tehran were remarkable. He referred twice to “the Islamic Republic of Iran,” a formulation long shunned, and said that republic, no other, should “take its rightful place in the community of nations.” Here was explicit American acceptance of Iran’s 30-year-old clerical revolution.

Rami G. Khouri: Dialogue or Dictating to Iran?, Middle East Times, March 23, 2009
We should not underestimate the courage and self-confidence it took for Obama to move in this direction and to make several gestures towards Iran since taking office. He reflects real strength, political realism and much humility in being able to reverse many aspects of the belligerent Bush approach and instead to reach out to Iran. Yet the persistent flaw in the Obama approach that might prove to be fatal is a lingering streak of arrogance that is reflected in both the tone and the substance of his message. This is most obvious in his insistence – after telling the Iranians that they are a great culture with proud traditions, which is presumably something they already knew, experienced and felt on their own — on lecturing Iran about the responsibilities that come with the right to assume its place in the “community of nations”, and then linking Iran’s behavior with “terror of arms” and a “capacity to destroy.”
http://www.metimes.com/International/2009/03/23/dialogue_or_dictating_to_iran/9371/ <http://www.metimes.com/International/2009/03/23/dialogue_or_dictating_to_iran/9371

Despite Iran’s tepid response, experts hail Obama approach, McClatchy, March 20, 2009
Triti Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council, which favors U.S. engagement with Iran, called Obama’s latest message “historic.” He said the president took the right tack in not trying to ignore Iran’s leaders and speak only to the Iranian people, as Bush almost always did. Bush’s rhetoric helped the fiery Ahmadinejad, and Obama’s approach “now may ‘un-help’ Ahmadinejad,” Parsi said. Iranian reformists, who favor improved ties with the United States, also say the previous approach helped the hawkish camp in Iran’s divided political system, which often manipulates anti-American sentiment for political ends. While Bush was in the White House, “reformists became weak,” reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh said in a recent interview in Tehran. The Carnegie Endowment’s Sadjadpour said that while Iran’s internal political battles won’t be resolved anytime soon, the new U.S. diplomacy “will undermine (hardliners) and their narrative of a hostile U.S. government bent on oppressing Iran.”
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/world/story/64536.html <http://www.mcclatchydc.com/world/story/64536.html

Iran sets terms for U.S. ties, AP, March 22, 2009
Iran wants the United States to show concrete change in its behavior toward it, for example by handing back frozen assets, but Tehran is not pursuing “eternal hostility,” said Professor Mohammad Marandi at Tehran University. “I think they (the Iranian leadership) are quite willing to have better relations if the Americans are serious,” said Marandi, who heads North American studies at the university. Marandi said Khamenei did not dismiss Obama’s overture but was “effectively saying that this is simply not enough, that the United States must take concrete steps toward decreasing tension with Iran.” But Professor Hamidreza Jalaiepour, who teaches political sociology in Tehran, said Khamenei had delivered a pragmatic message rather than one based on ideology on Saturday. If the United States eased sanctions imposed on Iran or released frozen funds, Iran was likely to respond, for example in helping to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan, he said.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090322/wl_nm/us_iran_usa http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090322/wl_nm/us_iran_usa

‘No proof’ Iran seeks atom bomb: Russian minister, AFP, March 22, 2009
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday there was no proof that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon and urged the West to respect and reach out to the Islamic republic. “There is no proof that Iran even has decided to make a bomb,” he told the Brussels Forum conference, alongside EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who on behalf of world powers has led talks to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Lavrov said the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was best placed to monitor Iran’s activities and establish whether it might try to covertly develop a weapon under the guise of a civilian programme. Lavrov said that “as long as the IAEA works in Iran,” real concerns it may develop a bomb could be allayed.

Amir Taheri <http://online.wsj.com/search/search_center.html?KEYWORDS=AMIR+TAHERI&amp;ARTICLESEARCHQUERY_PARSER=bylineAND> : Iran Has Started a Mideast Arms Race, Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2009
Make no mistake: The Middle East may be on the verge of a nuclear arms race triggered by the inability of the West to stop Iran’s quest for a bomb. Since Tehran’s nuclear ambitions hit the headlines five years ago, 25 countries — 10 of them in the greater Middle East — have announced plans to build nuclear power plants for the first time. The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates [UAE] and Oman) set up a nuclear exploratory commission in 2007 to prepare a “strategic report” for submission to the alliance’s summit later this year. But Saudi Arabia is not waiting for the report. It opened negotiations with the U.S. in 2008 to obtain “a nuclear capacity,” ostensibly for “peaceful purposes.”
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123776572203009141.html http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123776572203009141.html

Wife of founder of Iran’s Islamic republic dies, AP, March 23, 2009
The wife of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, has died after a long illness, state media reported Sunday. She was 93. Khadijeh Saqafi, who was known as the “mother of the Islamic revolution,” died Saturday in Tehran, state TV said. Thousands of people, including Iran’s president and supreme leader, attended her funeral at Tehran University on Sunday. “After a lifetime of patience and perseverance, and months of sick health, the dear and respected wife of Imam Khomeini has finally passed way, leaving friends of the late imam in grief,” her grandson Hasan Khomeini said in a statement posted on the Web site of Iran’s English-language state television station, Press TV.
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ikwGcpqo0p2JwanEHkViYsOE0s2QD9739J480 http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ikwGcpqo0p2JwanEHkViYsOE0s2QD9739J480

Tony Wilson
Program Assistant
Open Society Institute/Open Society Policy Center
1120 19th Street, NW- 8th Floor Washington, DC 20036
Tel. 1-202-721-5600
Fax: 1-202-530-0128

Article sourced from guardian.co.uk

President Barack Obama made an unprecedented video appeal to the Iranian people today, offering a “new beginning” of engagement to end nearly 30 years of animosity between the two nations. Video is also on YouTube here.

Barack Obama’s Nowruz (the Iranian new year) message is the latest chapter in a presidential charm offensive that has so far been conducted at arms length and has barely touched on several key disputes.

In the video, which was shown on a number of TV networks in the Middle East, Obama said he wanted to “speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” to make clear his desire to establish “constructive ties” between the two countries.

“My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us,” the president said. Strikingly, though, he mentioned none of them: not Iran’s nuclear programme, its support for Hezbollah and Hamas, nor its profound hostility to Israel.

The timing and format of the TV broadcast, with Farsi subtitles, emphasised its broad appeal – to an entire country at a time of traditional celebration rather than solely to a government whose internal complexities compound the difficulty for US policymakers.

“For nearly three decades relations between our nations have been strained,” Obama reminded his audience. “But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together.”

The message for Iran’s leaders at this “season of new beginnings” was a reprise of the approach he signalled in his inaugural address: commitment to engagement – and in an emollient tone that again contrasted sharply with that of George Bush, who included the Islamic Republic in his “axis of evil”.

“This process will not be advanced by threats,” the president said, hinting perhaps that Americans as well as Iranians needed to take that lesson on board. “We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.”

Despite avoiding the tangled nuclear dossier – specifically Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment – Obama did warn that “terror and arms” did not sit well with the “real responsibilities” that went with Iran’s “rightful place in the community of nations”.

The White House and state ­department are looking at a range of other ways to reach out to Tehran. It has been invited to an international conference on Afghanistan later this month and the US wants to see it co-operate as US forces prepare to leave Iraq.

Another idea is that the president write an open letter to the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. US officials want to avoid doing anything that might boost the chances of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the populist hardliner who is standing for re-election in June.

Reopening a US interests section in Tehran – scene of the notorious hostage-taking drama at the old US embassy during the 1979 revolution – is reportedly another possibility.

Iranian reactions to the message were predictably cautious. Akbar Javankir, an adviser to Ahmadinejad, said Iran could not forget “the previous hostile and aggressive attitude of the United States.”

The US administration “has to ­recognise past mistakes and repair them.”

That includes decades of American support for the shah. As Obama pointed out, with presidential understatement, it will not be easy to overcome what he called “the old divisions.”


On Thursday September 25th, over 250 US and international religious, political and cultural leaders gathered at a hotel in NYC to meet with the President of Iran in order to press the government of the United States and the government of Iran to engage in serious dialogue as well as to affirm the concept of interfaith dialogue. Given the climate of incendiary rhetoric, members of traditional peace churches that sponsored this event, including American Friends Service Committee, The Mennonite Central Committee, Religions of Peace and the World Council of Churches consider it their responsibility to step in and begin to cultivate the possibility for dialogue and engagement in behalf of peace when governments fail to do so. The previous evening, The Fellowship of Reconciliation hosted a meeting with over sixty peace activists with the president of Iran with the same intention. These groups are not alone in calling for diplomacy and dialogue. Five former secretaries of state urged similar action.

Meetings organized by peace and non-violence organizations and individuals with Ahmadinejad do not mean those attending agree or support specific Iranian governmental policies that are in conflict with the values of the peace community or the accompanying rhetoric about Israel, Jews or the United States. Rather, the intention is to promote the concept of dialogue and engagement precisely because of the vast gulf between governmental positions of the United States and Iran and to better understand the underlying issues of the conflict from the Iranian perspective. Ahmadinejad is a political figure who represents his country but is not identical with the whole of his country. In his role as president Ahmadinejad does not have the authority to initiate war, attack another country, promote or limit nuclear weapons or legislate Islamic law. A populist politician, his domestic policies have been failures, especially in the economic sphere. Moreover, he has not been an active proponent of human rights. On the other hand,  many US media and non-governmental organizations criticizing Ahmadinejad’s provocative rhetoric fail to educate the American public by providing in depth analysis of the underlying historic and geo-political issues that are provoking the wider conflict between Iran, the United States and Israel.

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The Folly of Attacking Iran: Lessons from History

The Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi talks to David Batty about the regime’s abuse of its population – and how the west needs to abandon the threat of war if it wants to win over Iran’s people and bring change

David Batty

guardian.co.uk, Friday June 13 2008

Shirin Ebadi at a media forum in Germany this month
Shirin Ebadi at a media forum in Germany this month. Photograph: Felix Heyder/EPA

The Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi is not a woman easily stopped in her tracks – she has been held in jail and faced repeated death threats, but continues to speak out against the abuses of the theocratic regime. On the doorstep of the BBC’s Bush House in central London, though, an American tourist waves the Nobel peace laureate and her entourage aside, complaining loudly: “Do you mind? We’re trying to take a picture!”

It serves, perhaps, as a reminder for Ebadi – who has spent the day being treated like a VIP by the BBC World Service – of the challenge she faces in attracting western interest to her cause.

With the international community fixated on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Ebadi says there is dwindling scrutiny of human rights in her homeland, and the hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has taken advantage of this to increase repression.

“Since the world started focusing on the nuclear programme, the human rights situation in Iran has worsened every day,” says Ebadi, who won the Nobel prize in 2003.

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June 14, 2008 | 6:12 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Lily Tinker-Fortel clenched the passenger door armrest as her Iranian taxi weaved in and out through the congestion of cars, motorbikes and pedestrians on Valiasr Street, the longest street in the Middle East and the busiest 12 miles for Tehran’s 13 million residents.

“Imagine a busy street lined on both sides with beautiful, towering sycamores. Miles of sycamores,” Tinker-Fortel wrote in her blog on June 9, 2008, recounting her first afternoon in Tehran.

It was day one of a 12-day, 21-person civilian diplomacy trip that took the 24-year-old peace activist from Columbia to numerous Iranian historical and cultural centers of the villages Qom, Esfahan, and Abyaneh, and the city of Shiraz. Tinker-Fortel, community outreach coordinator for Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, was part of an interfaith delegation that went to Iran in May on a mission of fellowship.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest and largest interfaith organization in the United States, organized the delegation and began their Iranian program in December 2005. According to Leila Zand, director of the organization’s Iran program, the delegation sends civilian diplomats into Iran to meet Iranian civilians, government officials and religious leaders from Iran’s Muslim majority and those in the minority Armenian-Christian, Iranian-Jewish and Zoroastrain communities.

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Attention PeaceWithIran.com users,

Sister Ellen Francis from the Episcopal Order of St. Helena’s Convent in Augusta, Georgia has officially begun a weekly “fast for peace” in regards to Iran and the United States and Israel. Sister Ellen Francis is an American who has traveled the world for peace and human rights activism for many years. She had the privilege of living in Iran for ten years and since then has made many more trips there for civilian diplomatic reasons. I had the honor of going on one such trip with Sister Ellen Francis in March of this year. As one can read from my own personal blogs about the trip, it was a once in a lifetime experience that I will not soon forget. Not only did I gain tremendously as a person from the trip culturally, I believe we made amazing progress as a group in our collected goal of fostering more peace and harmony between the people of the United States and Iran.

As one can clearly see from this website and so many others, there are hundreds of thousands of people all over the world who are taking pro-active steps of action to not only assure that a few ignorant people who happen to currently work for us (think “government employees”) don’t needlessly attack the people of Iran militarily, but are also working to actually create and foster more peace and harmony between our two countries – which is at the end of the day what everyone says they want. Right?

Even the worst of them, the absolute most treacherous, murderous, and caniving monsters in the world today – (think Bush Jr. and Sr., Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Libby, Limbaugh, Rove, the Clintons, many of the current “Ayatollahs” serving in the government of Iran, et al. – for more detailed information on the history of some of these heinous names, start your research by studying the Project for a New American Century here), claim that they are “working towards peace.” The problem is that it is hard sometimes to see the logic of a few people’s methods – such as bombing other countries as just one example or sponsoring terrorist acts as another. But at the very least we can agree that “peace and harmony between our countries” is what everyone “claims” to want.

Sometimes it is more obvious when someone’s actions are more aligned with “working towards peace.” The work of groups such as The ANSWER Coalition or UFPJ or Amnesty International or Star’s Edge are all good examples of this. They actually walk the talk. Many more organizations exist and can be found on the TuneInTurnOnHelpOut.org website. Many examples can be found in groups that are even smaller all over the world… sometimes just the actions of ONE.

One such example comes in the form of a beautiful person by the name of Sister Ellen Francis who has begun a weekly “fast for peace with Iran campaign.” I am inspired, moved, and challenged by Sister Ellen Francis’ bold commitment. More information can be found on her own personal blog and in the letter she sent in this week re-printed below. If you want to join her please feel free to visit her blog and email her. And let us know here at PeaceWithIran.com if you also plan on participating.

As always, keep those articles, blog posts, lecture and event notices, activism updates, and other interesting items pouring in – and most importantly keep up the real world actions for peace. Everyday. Do something.

The Raconteur

Dear Ed,
I’ve started the fast, and am feeling really good. I’ve posted a notice on my blog (ellenfrancis.blogspot.com), and also some advice about fasting. I think that the prayer is the most important part, and that people could join in just doing that, or fasting from one type of food, or partial fasting for part of the time. Maybe on another day, too — Wednesday is the best day for me since it’s our “day off” here in this convent.

Just think of all the people in the world for whom fasting isn’t an option but a WAY OF LIFE.

Isn’t it great that The Call Iran Project in Washington went so well? Carah Ong posted a notice about it on the Fellowship Of Reconciliation Iran listserve.

So let me know if you’d like to join in some way, and I’d be really happy for the publicity through the PeaceWithIran website. The more the merrier, and the more powerful we will be! I’m going to write an article for the Episcopal Peace Fellowship newsletter and maybe for our newsletter too. A few people have left comments on my blog.

Yours in Peace,
Sister Ellen Francis

Tuesday, June 10—Call-in to Congress for Diplomacy with Iran

This is a national action organized by the Campaign for a New American Policy on Iran (www.newiranpolicy.org). Communicating with our representatives is an essential component of our representative democracy! Remember: of the people, by the people, for the people!

*When you call, ask for the aide who handles international affairs or foreign policy. Tell them you’re calling to encourage the Senator or Representative to: (1) Work for direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks between the U.S. and Iran; (2) Remind them that the U.S. and Iran share common interests in a stable Iraq, Middle East and Afghanistan. (3) And emphasize that just as the U.S. pursued negotiations with North Korea and Libya it’s now time to talk with Iran.

Capitol Switchboard at (202)224-3121 (Also, this toll free number is mentioned in publicity for the event: 800- 788-9372).

Article originally published in the Washington Post here

The “axis of evil” has no relevance for me when I think of Iran, a country I’ve found to have a human, loving, hospitable face throughout 40 years of encounters. I lived in Iran between 1968 and 1978, and started returning again, this time with peace delegations, in 2005. It is one of the great joys of my life to see the layers of misunderstanding and fear gradually fall away from those who visit Iran today for the first time.

One delegate recently said, “I met a mullah on the street and he was so sweet! Who would think of a mullah being sweet?” Another delegate, well-traveled in the Middle East, said, “Iranians are the most hospitable people I have ever met.”

A Jewish delegate said he had been told to be careful: “They might shoot you if they find out you’re Jewish.” He was amazed to see Jews worshiping openly and walking down a street in Tehran wearing their yarmulkes. He wasn’t shot, but was mobbed by the worshipers at a synagogue who were delighted to find a Jew among us.

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