Israel to the rescue! Iranian blogger given asylum in Israel

A story that could have come straight out of a spy thriller has just reached its final happy conclusion as the Iranian blogger Neda Amin, who had been living in Turkey for the last 3 years, arrived safely in Israel after being threatened by the Turkish authorities with deportation back to Iran and almost certain imprisonment, if not death.

Neda Amin, a Turkey-based, Iranian-born blogger for The Times of Israel’s Persian website, arrived safely in Israel on Thursday morning, and was met at Ben-Gurion Airport by Times of Israel editor David Horovitz.

Neda Amin is welcomed by David Horovitz on her arrival in Israel

Amin was being threatened with imminent deportation by Turkey. She feared that if no other country took her in, she would be sent back to Iran, where she feared for her fate.

After The Times of Israel alerted the Israeli authorities to her plight, government officials immediately responded and paved the way for her safe arrival in Israel.

“Thank you,” said Amin, over and over when she arrived, embracing Horovitz. “You saved me.”

Horovitz thanked all of the Israeli officials who had worked to ensure her well-being. “I’m proud to live in a country that responded so instinctively to help somebody who was in danger.”

Amin has blogged regularly for The Times of Israel’s Persian site, and has done some freelance work. “She feared for her life, and her work for the Times of Israel was apparently a factor, so I felt we had an obligation to ensure her well-being, and I am very grateful to all the Israeli officials to whom I turned for assistance for providing it, immediately,” said Horovitz. The officials at the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, he stressed, were particularly helpful.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who issued the visa for her entry into the country, tweeted Thursday: “Welcome to Israel!”

Amin had appealed to the United Nations in Turkey to protect her, noting that the UN previously designated her a refugee in 2015, and had also appealed to human rights organizations and others to intervene on her behalf.

The UN Watch NGO circulated a petition on Amin’s behalf, warning that she was “in grave danger should she be deported back to Iran.”

Amin, 32, left Iran for Turkey in 2014.

David Horovitz, editor of the Times of Israel takes well-deserved partial credit for Neda’s safe arrival, and also credits all the Israeli authorities:

She told us — in writing, and in a few very short phone conversations — that her life was in danger. She had been questioned repeatedly by Turkish police, and had now been told that she faced being kicked out of the country. Furthermore, if no country would take her in, she said she was told, she would be sent back to Iran — where the worst could happen

She said that she was supposed to have protection from the UN, but she did not believe that this would keep her safe. She had not written against the authorities in Turkey, but it had been made clear to her that her public criticism of the Iranian regime, and her writing for an Israeli site, were not tolerable.

After gathering more of her details, I contacted a few people — Israeli and others — who I thought might be able to advise me, and to help Neda.

And they did. The readiness to help was quite remarkable. Almost nobody told me there was nothing they could do or nothing to be done.

She said she has Jewish heritage — that her late father’s mother was Jewish. I don’t know if that was a factor in the Israeli response; I tend to think not.

I don’t know which of the people I turned to played the critical roles. (And I wasn’t the only one acting on her behalf: The NGO UN Watch started a petition for her, and the Jerusalem Journalists Association wrote directly to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.) What I do know is that very soon after I shared the details of Neda’s case, the Israeli authorities wheeled into action. Whatever checks needed to be made were evidently made. Whatever decisions needed to be taken were evidently taken.

She also contacted the Israeli authorities, and made a plea that she be allowed to come here.

Neda speaks a little English. It was enough for her to say to me, on the phone, “Mr. Horovitz, please save me.”

After gathering more of her details, I contacted a few people — Israeli and others — who I thought might be able to advise me, and to help Neda.

And they did.  The readiness to help was quite remarkable. Almost nobody told me there was nothing they could do or nothing to be done.

At the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, Consul-General Shai Cohen and Yaffa Olivitski, who handles consular affairs, established contact with Neda, and went far out of their way to help. Paperwork was organized. And I was told that Neda was going to be allowed to fly to Israel, with an appropriate visa.

I had felt that since Israel in general, and The Times of Israel in particular, was a factor in her life being in danger, we had an obligation to try to ensure that no harm came to her. The State of Israel clearly felt the same.

Her departure was not entirely smooth. When she was first due to fly to Tel Aviv, and went to the airport, it turned out that she was missing a form that needed to be issued by Turkish police. She wasn’t allowed to fly without it. Unfortunately, her mobile phone was out of power at this point, and she wasn’t able to update us. She was off the radar for a few hours, and somebody somewhere put two and two together to make five, and leaked word to the Hebrew media that she had been arrested.

She hadn’t. And she wasn’t. And two days later — in the early hours of Thursday — she returned to the airport, form in hand, and was able to board her flight to Tel Aviv. With her dog, I might add — a 27-kilo German Shepherd named Chica who is the love of her life.

By her telling, the past year and a half has been difficult to terrifying. She says she was called in for questioning by Turkish security authorities no fewer than six times, accused of being a spy, offered large sums of money to work for them, threatened with deportation to Iran.

At one session, she asked them, “Is it illegal to write for Israeli media?” No, she was told. “So why all the investigations?” Because, came the answer, “We don’t like working with Israel, and we don’t like you working with Israel.”

Turkey’s behaviour is absolutely outrageous, though their record against journalists is dismal to put it mildly. This was an anti-Israel, even antisemitic, move from Turkey, and the matter should be taken up by Israel in the UN and other international agencies as a matter of urgency.

… She was told she would face deportation on or after August 5, and was fighting that order in the Turkish courts when Israel opened its doors to her.

David Horovitz expresses the feelings of all Israelis when he says:

But as a journalist who is frequently critical of much that is done here, who worries about many aspects of where this country is headed, I feel rather proud of the State of Israel today.

So do we all! Kol hakavod Mr. Horovitz for the part you played in Neda’s rescue, as well as to UN Watch  and all the Israeli ministries who pulled together and produced a near-miracle.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of Shurat HaDin

Now compare this brave lady, who risked her life and defied hostile authorities to tell the truth, with a Palestinian who lives in the lap of luxury yet slanders Israel day in and day out. I’m talking about chief Palestinian negotiator (though what he negotiates is anyone’s guess) Saeb Erekat, who is now in the queue for a lung transplant. This is the man who slanderously accused Israel of harvesting organs from Palestinians for transplants. Now, in an act of staggering hypocrisy, he wants an Israeli lung to be “harvested” for his own personal use.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the counter-terror NGO Shurat HaDin, has filed a request with the Israeli authorities asking that Erekat, who is not an Israeli citizen, be taken off the waiting list:

Nitzana Darshan Leitner, chair of Shurat Din, wrote: “It is inconceivable that anyone who calls for to boycott the State of Israel, initiates propaganda for sanctions against it, and leads the BDS movement to isolate and harm the State of Israel, now seeks the assistance of that same State of Israel when he needs it. Those who choose to boycott the State of Israel have enough self-respect to boycott all the services of the State of Israel.”

The letter brought further reassurances from heath authorities that Mr Erekat is not poised to receive a donor lung, but Avi Guez, lawyer for Shurat Hadin, still has “concerns” that Mr Erekat could end up getting special provisions.

As Darshan-Leitner wrote in her Times of Israel blog (ironically the same blogging platform as the couragous Neda Amin):

If israeli doctors are going to perform any procedures on Erekat, perhaps let them implant a sense of decency, honesty and self-respect as well.

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7 Responses to Israel to the rescue! Iranian blogger given asylum in Israel

  1. Pingback: Israel to the rescue! Iranian blogger given asylum in Israel – 24/6 Magazine

  2. Reality says:

    Welcome Neda Amin and kudos to David Horowitz! I may not always agree with his opinions,but he acted selflessy.He has really literally saved her life,and as the saying goes”he who saves a life has saved a whole world ,and is deserving of a place in the world to come”.
    Kol hakavod to Nitzana Darshan Leitner,I hope she wins this case against Erekat.And I thought Jews were the owners of chutzpah! It’s making me feel sick that this piece of terror inspiring,anti Jewish/Israeli is even on the Israel lung transplant list.I hope he is removed forthwith,and that precious lung will be given to someone more deserving.As she says,if he wants to boycott Israel,boycott it to the end and stand by your principles.

  3. Jeff Polaski says:

    Congratulations on a job well done. May she write well and be happy.
    Now, she has to be kept alive. Vigilance.
    In line with that, keep the dog. A 27-pound Alsacian is not trivial.
    In accordance with internationally accepted medical ethics, if Erekat qualifies for the transplant list, then he should be subject equally to all the rules and let the chips fall where they may. Whether or not he gets a transplant, everyone’s hands are clean and their heads held high. Insulate the transplant board from influences that have nothing to do with political considerations.

    • anneinpt says:

      In theory I agree with you about medical ethics Jeff. On the other hand I wonder if there is actually a law that insists that you save the life of a person who intends to kill you afterwards. And Erekat makes no bones about that.

      In any event he is not an Israeli citizen so he has no automatic right to a lung transplant. He is technically a foreign citizen and has to take his place in the queue, which comes after Israeli citizens. It’s the same in all other countries.

      • Jeff Polaski says:

        So, he qualifies for the really long line. OK, understood.
        I still have a problem with the logic of denying someone a place in whichever line he might qualify for. No doubt the Syrian parents and children helped by the incredible IDF response to medical care needed just across the border will not all grow up wanting to kill Israelis. Can’t Israel state plainly that anyone who overtly threatens the wellbeing of any Israelis doesn’t get a place in any line. They forfeit this because of a self declaration as an enemy of the Israeli nation state.

        It might be better to take this off the adhoc table and codify it, but I’m then unsure what conventions of war might be in jeopardy. Maybe the solution is that they have not declared war as a nation state, are non-state actors, and therefore get (nothing, some, half, most but not all) of what a humanitarian entity would provide.

        Do you see the hole I’m digging myself into? Medical ethics are different than “rules of war”, even when war is not a nation state declared war. Perhaps declare Erekat outside of the rule of laws. But how do you do that to an “official” of another state, even if not recognized.
        Wow, this is a conundrum! I don’t think you can simply ignore the doorbell.

        Our US health system seems to let a lot of people die for lack of available transplant organs. Perhaps Senator Mitch McConnell, who has devised plans to let even more by the thousands die, might lend some advice.
        I have to think about this. I see your point, but Israel has an image to promote and maintain.

        • anneinpt says:

          Yes, medical ethics can be a minefield if only side in a war situation keeps to them. That’s where Israel finds itself.

          But don’t worry, we have some of the world’s top medical and judicial ethicists. I’m sure something will be figured out.

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