JERUSALEM, Israel – An Iranian group is reportedly threatening to destroy what local Jews believe to be the ancient burial site of Queen Esther and Mordechai in Hamedan in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.
The Basij group, a hardline student wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, released a statement earlier this month threatening to tear down the tomb and replace it with a Palestinian consulate.
"We warn the United States and the Zionist regime ...that the first act of fulfilling their filthy desires and the slightest attack on Palestine and the holy al-Quds (Jerusalem) means that they will no longer occupy a place as Esther's tomb…we'll turn it into a Palestine consulate and you will see the fulfillment of this promise," their statement said.
Ali Malmir, the director Hamedan’s tourism office, told Iran’s ISNA news site on February 7 that it is not possible to tear down the tomb because there are specific rules for cultural heritage buildings that cannot be violated.
The head of the Basij group in Hamedan, Tayeb Frydras, responded to Malmir’s statement saying that Iran must show its power and Palestinian rights are more important than protecting Jewish cultural sites.
The Alliance for Rights of All Minorities in Iran (ARAM), a US-based watchdog group monitoring minority rights in Iran reported that the Basij student group attempted to raid the tomb in Hamedan on Saturday.
According to covering reports, members of Iranian #Basij attempted to raid the historic site yesterday in an act of revenge against the Israelis Palestinian peace plan by President Trump. #dealofcentury. #EsterandMordechai pic.twitter.com/TspHom7VWM
— ARAM Iran (@ARAMalliance) February 16, 2020
ARAM also reported that “Iranian authorities” had joined the Basij group in calling for the tomb’s destruction, but the veracity of this statement cannot be immediately verified.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a statement on Twitter that it is “troubled” by the threats to Esther and Mordechai’s tomb “and emphasizes the Iranian government’s responsibility to protect religious sites.”
USCIRF is troubled by reported threats to the tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamedan, Iran, and emphasizes the Iranian government's responsibility to protect religious sites.
— USCIRF (@USCIRF) February 19, 2020
Anti Defamation League head Jonathan Greenblatt called the reports “disgusting” especially because the Jewish people are weeks away from celebrating Purim, a holiday dedicated to honoring Esther and Mordechai.
“People of all faiths should speak out before this desecration takes place,” he said.
It’s disgusting that the Iranian government would violate a sacred Jewish site to press their political agenda. With less than a month before #Purim, people of all faiths should speak out before this desecration takes place. https://t.co/pJ69Migo2N
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) February 16, 2020