During the discussions about whether or not Obama should make a deal with Iran – and what kind of deal that should be – one important element gets left unsaid: the treatment of religious minorities in Iran. Most people are under the incorrect assumption, widely spread through the media, that Jews and other minorities are treated with basic civil rights in Iran as long as they keep their head down and are loyal to the state. This, however, is completely untrue. Despite all the accusations of Apartheid against Israel, the claim can be made that the truest Apartheid state in the Middle East is the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is based on the following points:

  • Non-Muslims can not serve as judges of any kind in Iran
  • Non-Muslims can not serve as officers in the Army.
  • Non-Muslims have 6 seats reserved for them in Parliament: The Jewish community has one. Other than those seats, they can not vote in Parliament elections, nor run for office.
  • In case someone converts to Islam from another religion, they get all the property when their parents die, regardless of how many other siblings there are. This seems like a pure attempt to induce conversion to Islam through unfair inheritance laws
  • In case a non-Muslim man commits adultery with a Muslim woman he gets the death penalty. If a Muslim man commits adultery with a non-Muslim woman, no penalty is provided for under the law.

I rarely engage in Twitter or Social Media activism. However, this case seems like an exception as these are important facts about Iran which are not widely known, and absolutely deserve to be part of the national conversation about what kind of relationship we have towards Iran, what should be required of it in order to relieve sanctions, and how much a regime with these openly Apartheid laws can be trusted to meet obligations and to treat citizens fairly.

Unfortunately, I do not believe many mainstream media outlets will cover this information: it’s not secret, it’s been confirmed by human rights activists, and it’s available on the web but not widely disseminated. It’s up to us to make it part of the set of things people instinctively know about the current Iranian government. (In no way to I intend to besmirch the Iranian people, including Shiite Muslims in Iran, who suffer under the regime perhaps just as much as anyone else.)

Please get this story out. If our opponents are serious in fighting against Apartheid, let them explain why that is not what this is. A simple Hashtag to coordinate these efforts would be #apartheidiran Again, I have a low social media footprint, so I can’t get the word out, but I think getting this to be well known is the best thing we can do right now for a safer and juster Middle East – not only for Israel, but for the entire region.

If needed, here is a link to the main report on these violations:

About the Author
Barak Ben-Shem is a Jewish "Israeli-American" (Born in the US to Israeli parents.) He has run an investment fund for the last ten years and before that ran a private equity fund in Romania. He is a PhD candidate at Columbia University, studying sociology.