There are several ways to leave Iran. Among them: marry an American, claim asylum in the Netherlands if you are gay, apply for a student visa or residency, or win the Green Card lottery. For Christians and Jews and Ba’hais, there is another way: asylum based on religion. It requires a few months stay in Vienna or another city where paperwork is processed and “homeless” Iranians find temporary housing before moving on to new homes in Orange County, Chicago, or Virginia.
If Muslims could do the same they would. They would pick up and move out in higher numbers than the minorities. Iranian law may be harder on minorities, but the minorities I know express no more displeasure with their lives in Iran than do the Muslims I know.
Awhile ago, a Ba’hai family that I met told me that Iranian society had become more tolerant since the revolution. The law, they explained, had become less tolerant, but their neighbors and friends had become more tolerant.
I asked a young Jewish friend how his parents felt. He told me that they would agree. “Before the revolution, Iranians were much more religious. If my father would visit a shop or the home of a Muslim, they would clean everything. They felt he was dirty. Now, it is never a problem. Muslims shake my hand all the time. Most of my friends are Muslims.”
“My grandmother was that way,” Keivan added. “She would clean the house from top to bottom if a Christian came over. My mother, no. I had a Christian friend who was always over.”
An Armenian friend of ours recently made the move to Vienna to await her paperwork for residency in the US. “My father is broken-hearted. He loves Iran,” she told me. “Iran saved our family. They were refugees from Turkey. They all love Iran so much, but it is too hard to continue. He is sick of lying all the time so we are moving to America.”
Soon, Iran will have almost no religious minorities. They won’t be able to point to their “big” Jewish community of 30,000. In Hamadan, where the tomb of Esther and Mordecai is located, only 17 Jews are left. Iran reports that there are 30,000 Jews here, but every day the number gets smaller. It isn’t because of any “special” persecution. It’s just that they *can* leave.