TEL AVIV – Thousands of Iranians are turning to Israel for help amid the coronavirus pandemic and many of them are even requesting asylum from the Jewish state, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
“Thousands of people are asking to come to Israel for medical assistance or to emigrate,” Yiftah Curiel, the head of the Foreign Ministry’s digital diplomacy, said.
“There are lots of Iranians in Iran and in the Diaspora that support Israel, reject the regime and want to see a different future between the two countries.”
The calls for help mostly arrived through private messages on the Foreign Ministry’s Farsi-language social media accounts, as well as from e-mails.
“Sometimes they are from people who have been forced to flee and are refugees in other countries, or people who had to flee after expressing solidarity with Israel,” he said.
Curiel related the story of a 31-year-old Iranian who said he “had to escape Iran because of the corrupt regime. I asked for asylum in Turkey, and my wife and four-year-old daughter and I are in unlivable conditions; there is no one who can help. We have been abandoned and our lives are in danger.”
Another claimed to be Jewish and a soldier in the Iranian army. “Because of my political and religious crime, I have to flee Iran. Please direct me how to receive asylum in Israel? Please answer me. My life is in danger and I cannot stay in Iran.”
According to Sharona Avginsaz, who is in charge of the Foreign Ministry’s Persian social media accounts, many Iranians “see Israel as a modern, progressive, democratic country, and that is one of the reasons for this wave of messages to our pages.”
Avginsaz, who immigrated to Israel from Iran in 1988, credits the internet with changing people’s minds about Israel.
“Today, there is the Internet and our platforms, and more awareness,” she told Israel’s Channel 20 in comments translated by The Jerusalem Post. “These messages prove the Iranians see that anti-Israel propaganda is a lie.”
Avginsaz says that despite her best efforts, she receives too many messages to answer each one personally.
“I try to answer as many as I can… but we don’t really have the ability to help them. I try to answer positively and wish them luck,” she said.
She added that the Foreign Ministry’s Farsi social media accounts are more popular than the English-language. Its Persian Instagram account has half a million followers.