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E es y
minorities to leave Iran, home to
Indeed, advocates in the Iranian
Jewish community in the United States
— the largest contingent is in Los
Angeles — praise Agudath Israel's
offer, but fear the publicity could
endanger Jews trying to leave the coun-
try. With the prospect of an American-
led war on Iraq raising tensions in the
region, some fear that the Iranian gov-
ernment will use any excuse to clamp
down on religious minorities.
Ten Iranian Jews were sentenced in
July 2000 to jail terms of 4-13 years on
charges they allegedly spied for Israel.
Five currently remain in jail.
fl Izi''el. Ave. It
from page 14
a federal contractor it is required to
treat all individuals equally.
HIAS also deals with other Iranian
religious minorities in Vienna, such as
Christians, Bahais and Zoroastrians.
The largest group applying for refugee
status are Christians. Jews are the sec-
ond largest group; the 177 in Vienna
make up about 15 percent of the total
refugee population there, according to
Religious refugees from Iran also can
go through Turkey or Pakistan. Since
no visa is required to enter those two
countries, refugees may travel there
freely and apply for asylum once they
arrive, but HIAS discourages the
In Turkey, refugees are required to
have a "referral from the U.N. High
Commission on Refugees, which is
hard to obtain," according to Mark
Hetfield, HIAS' director of internation-
al operations. Pakistan is considered too
The fee is only one in a series of diffi-
culties that Iranian Jews must over-
come to receive asylum in the United
States. The process begins when some-
one in the United States con-
tacts HIAS requesting a travel
visa for an Iranian Jew. To dis-
courage smuggling, HIAS
demands that Iranians have
legitimate visas before leaving
After family members or
friends contact HIAS, the
agency submits the names to the
U.S. government, which must
complete extensive background
checks. This process has been
prolonged significantly since
Sept. 11 because of security
If the U.S. government
approves, HIAS requests that a
travel visa to Vienna be made
available at the Austrian
embassy in Iran, where there is
no U.S. embassy. Since it is ille-
gal to emigrate from Iran, the
Leonard Glickman, left, president and CEO
agencies involved try to keep a
of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and
Shmuel Bloom, executive vice president
The Iranian government can
Israel of America, shake hands at
be obstructionist, sometimes
of a funding agreement between
refusing to issue passports to all
to help Iranian Jews.
family members in the hopes
that those leaving feel compelled
to return. If the refugees do get the
dangerous, as "refugees have disap-
visas to Austria, they must arrange for
peared en route," he said. This compels
their own travel.
the majority to go through Vienna, and
Once in Europe, they apply for the
everyone must pay the same fee.
U.S. refugee program. All Iranian reli-
The financial support from Agudath
gious minorities are eligible for the
Israel is available only to Jews.
program because of religious persecu-
However, both Agudath Israel and
tion in Iran.
HIAS have encouraged other religious
In July 2001, the State Department
groups to offer aid to refugees.
chose HIAS to be the sole agency
"We have no problem with the fact
working with Iranian refugees in
that they are a religious organization.
Vienna. The group historically has
In fact, there are many religious Jews
focused on Jewish immigration, but as
in Iran who might be induced into