Following a week of mystery, intrigue, suspense and drama, Neda Amin, a 32-year-old asylum seeker from Iran has arrived safely in Israel.
Amin, an Iranian journalist and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) asylum seeker, has been on the run and in hiding to avoid capture and possible death in her home country.
“Israel feels like my country,” Amin said in broken English upon arriving in Israel. “I am safe now and no one wants to attack me, arrest me.”
In the last week of July, Uzay Bulut, a freelance Turkish-born journalist now residing in Washington, D.C., wrote of Amin’s plight.
Bulut’s article in Arutz Sheva, an ultra-right Jewish Orthodox Israeli media network that often identifies with extreme religious Zionism, highlighted the fact that the Iranian writer had been in Turkey for her own safety after leaving Iran in 2014, but would soon be deported against international law back to Iran by the Turkish powers that be. Bulut called for action to save Amin’s life.
Bulut wrote that Amin’s time in Turkey was coming to an end and even though the Iranian had been granted refugee status by the UNHCR, this very organization was refusing to help her. Bulut explained that Amin’s work as an opinion blogger for a Farsi language outlet of an Israeli news site, The Persian Times of Israel, coupled with her feminist views and criticism of the Iranian regime, meant that her fears of having to return to her country of birth were not unfounded.
“Women’s rights activists, refugee rights defenders and Israeli authorities must help save her life,” Bulut wrote against the deportation.
Amin herself had been in a legal battle to avoid repatriation and had reached out to other countries to seek refuge.
The ensuing awareness the campaign brought, accompanied by activism of the Association of Journalists and the Union of Journalists in Israel, and a UN Watch petition, appeared to have an almost immediate effect and Amin’s safety and security seemed to be assured.
Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, agreed to allow the fleeing blogger to travel from Turkey to Israel on a tourist visa. He promised to grant her refugee status and make her eligible for asylum.
“This is a journalist whose life is in real danger because she wrote for an Israeli news site,” Deri said. “Given the clear humanitarian circumstances, I authorized her entry without hesitation.”
Considering Israel’s relationship with the fundamentalist Islamic regime of their not-so-distant geographic neighbor, this is a very rare occurrence. Non-Jewish Iranians are seldom granted entry to Israel, let alone given residency of any kind.
Originally slated to arrive in Israel earlier this week, the asylum seeker did not board her scheduled flight. The ensuing flurry of media activity and social media rumors expressed momentary concern that Amin had been arrested at Istanbul Airport on Monday morning.
David Horovitz, The Times of Israel editor in chief, tweeted that the report was false.
“Before others rush to repeat it, Israel Radio’s report saying that Neda Amin has been arrested is not true,” he wrote.
Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli issued a statement that the asylum seeker was in touch with the Israeli consulate and had delayed her arrival to her new host country because of personal reasons.
However, with much excitement, on Thursday morning, Neda Amin arrived in Israel and was greeted by Horovitz.
“I don’t think I could’ve lived with myself if I had found out that she was on a plane back to Iran,” Horovitz said. “To my great pride, and I write a lot of critical things about this country… Israeli authorities did far beyond what would be expected in my opinion.”