OstanWire — Following reports of an arson attack on a Jewish holy shrine in Hamadan, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Iran's state-run news agency, reported that the shrine had not been damaged.
Jonathan Greenblatt, director of the Anti-Defamation League, announced yesterday on Twitter that the tomb of Esther and Mordechai had been set on fire in Hamadan.
“Disturbing reports from #Iran that the tomb of Esther & Mordechai, a holy Jewish site, was set afire overnight,” Greenblatt posted. “We hope that the the authorities bring the perpetrators of this #antisemitic act to justice & commit to protecting the holy sites of all religious minorities in Iran.”
The Jerusalem Post reported that the attack followed a threat in Persian by a Twitter user, using the name Mohammad Mahdi Akhyar, in response to a tweet posted by Israel’s official Persian-language Foreign Affairs account.
Farzane Ebrahimzade, a freelance journalist in Iran, also confirmed the news in a series of Twitter posts on May 16. Speaking to a cultural activist in Hamadan, Ebrahimzade reported that “a small fire [had broken out] in the tomb and that Cultural Heritage officials confirmed the fire” though no cause had yet been given.
Elan Carr, the United States Government's Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism, also took to Twitter to condemn official Iranian sponsorship of anti-Semitism.
“We strongly condemn the attack on the Tomb of Esther & Mordechai in Hamedan #Iran,” Carr said, “which follows a threat last Feb. against the site. Iran’s regime is the world’s chief state sponsor of #Antisemitism. It must stop incitement and protect its #Jewish community and other minorities.”
The IRNA news agency also reported on May 16 that, on the previous Thursday afternoon, a person tried to enter the shrine through a bank situated next to the tomb of Esther and Mordechai, but was unsuccessful in carrying out any further action.
"According to the information obtained, the cameras at the scene recorded the person's face, and now the police are pursuing his arrest. Until he is arrested, it is not possible to provide information about the person's motives, reasons [for attacking the shrine] and identity," reported IRNA.
Ebrahimzadeh, the freelance journalist, also said on Twitter that no group had yet commented on or taken responsibility for the fire. Hamadan’s governor was expected to announce preliminary findings in the investigation during the day on May 16. But according to the cultural activist who spoke to Ebrahimzadeh, “apart from the respect [the people of Hamadan] have for the Jewish population of the city, the tomb of #EstherMordechai is one of the historical monuments of the city and [they] respect it.”
The Iranian American Jewish Federations of New York and Los Angeles, and the members of the Iranian Jewish Community in the US, also issued a statement, saying they were “disgusted and appalled by the news of the deliberate, criminal act of arson committed by a group go cowardly hoodlums in the ancient and official Iranian Heritage Site, the Tomb of Esther and Mordechai in [Hamadan].” The statement also called for the “responsible members of the government of [the] Islamic Republic of Iran [to] apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice for this barbaric act of insult to this holy site” and that the authorities should “take steps to protect other sites of religious and historic significance” in Iran.
The tomb of Esther – who was the Jewish queen of the ancient Iranian Achaemenid king Xerxes – and her cousin Mordechai is located in the center of the city of Hamadan and is one of the most important Jewish shrines in Iran and around the world. It is also a protected site of Iranian Cultural Heritage.
The Islamic Republic News Agency later removed the news from its site for unknown reasons and did not comment on the removal.