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Threats against the tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Iran and the arson that followed

One of our researchers who follows Iranian social media and the recent incident in which a Jewish tomb was allegedly the site of an arson attack provides the following report and context for the attack. Reports about the attempted burning of the tombs of Esther and Mordechai in Hamedan in mid-May raised questions about the targeting of this important Jewish site in Iran. The tomb is considered to be a large and important site. The tomb (مقبره «استر و مردخای») is located at ancient Hagmatana of the Median Empire. This shrine has been an important factor in the formation and continuation of the Jewish presence in Hamedan.

The shrine was set on fire by unknown individuals on Thursday, May 14th , CCTV cameras have identified a man who tried to do something in the shrine. The identity of this person has not been determined and police have not yet been able to arrest anyone yet.

Image posted online of the damaged tomb

There is a history of incitement against shrines in Iran. In response to Israel's actions in Jerusalem in 2010, the Hamedan Student Basij of the IRGC held a protest rally in front of the shrine, warning to demolish the site. On February 7th, 2020, the Basij Student Council of Hamedan University issued a statement warning that any attempt to implement a "deal of the century" would turn the tomb of Esther and Mordechai into the Palestinian consulate. “With God's help and with the fulfillment of the promise of the annihilate of the Zionist racist and child-killer regime, we will turn this place into the consulate of dear Palestine, and you will see the fulfillment of this promise with your own eyes. We hereby warn that the first step in fulfilling their evil demands and the slightest attack on Palestine and Holy Quds means that you will no longer find a place as the tomb of Esther and Mordechai in the land of Hamedan.”

The recent attack on the shrine occurred in the context of increased rhetoric against Israel leading up to Quds Day. This included statements from leaders slamming Israel as "cancerous" and a "virus." On May 15th, head of the Hamedan’s student Basij council in an interview with Iranian state new agency said “The fire has nothing to do with our statement."

An Iranian pro-regime social media user who uses a photo of IRGC commanders as his profile tweeted: “we promise to set Israel on fire ten times more.”

Examples of social media incitement and discussion about the tomb

Another user replied to him: “The IRGC can’t attack Israel in Syria and Instead of that fire they attack their tombs in Iran. Israel attacked Iran more than 270 times in Syria.” Other users noted that the “Islamic Republic has finally responded to hundreds of Israel attacks on its positions in Syria.” This tweet included a Farsi hashtag referring to the attack on the Jewish Tomb in Hamedan.

A user from Hamedan that studied in a high school near the tomb wrote “our School [Resalat] was close to this tomb. Our Jewish science teacher was in love with that place. Years ago they attacked the custodian and stole the gold jewels there and now they set fire to it.”

In last four decades in Iran, Islamic and political institutes and ideological organizations such as Basij systematically played the main role in institutionalizing hatred against Judaism among students.

In December 25th, 2017, Jews who went to the "Hadash" synagogue in Shiraz faced the result of this incitement. Prayer books were thrown in the synagogue toilets, and the scrolls of the Holy Torah were torn to pieces. Similar attacks and insults happened in Shiraz synagogue in the recent years.

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