Persian language teacher, ‘Sipora,’ was convicted by Iran in absentia for running an underground organization there that found housing for Iranian Muslim women with abusive husbands who could not get a divorce.
Times of Israel (h/t RF) Since she immigrated to the Netherlands in 2012 from her native Iran, the soft-spoken newcomer has been volunteering with the local Chabad House, preparing delicious traditional dishes for Utrecht’s celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim, a holiday set in Persia (Iran), celebrating the rescue of that country’s Jews from a communal death sentence.
But only a few of the locals who know Sipora (not her real name) are aware that she is both an illegal alien in the Netherlands and a refugee with a death sentence hanging over her own head in Iran for political offenses.
Sipora, 60, was sentenced in absentia to death by public execution in 2013 by a Tehran court that convicted her of “violating Islamic rules [of the] Islamic Revolution” and “anti-regime activity.” Her crime: running an underground organization that found housing solutions for women with abusive husbands who could not obtain a divorce.
Luckily for Sipora, she had already left Iran a year prior to her sentencing to help with the pregnancy of her daughter — herself a political refugee who has been living in the Netherlands since fleeing her native land in 2010. Sipora’s daughter, Rebecca, fled in connection with her involvement in the making of a documentary film about the fight for democracy in Iran.
“A few weeks after she came to Holland (on a tourist visa), Sipora’s husband of over 40 years, a Jewish building contractor with a heart condition, told her online that Iran’s dreaded secret police were looking for her and other members of her group. “In that moment I knew there is no going back,” Sipora recalled.
Unfortunately for her, Sipora’s legal troubles back home coincided with a toughening of immigration policies in the Netherlands, where the center-right ruling party is bleeding votes in favor of the anti-Islam Party for Freedom (Geert Wilders), which favors a shutdown of immigration from Muslim countries.
The daughter, Rebecca, received a temporary residency permit and later citizenship without delay even though she had no death sentence against her in Iran. Meanwhile, the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service has consistently declined requests by Sipora two years later. Instead, she is in legal limbo — neither granted asylum nor deported, despite her whereabouts being known to authorities.
A teacher of Persian who speaks neither Dutch nor English, Sipora lives with her daughter and grandson in relative social isolation and uncertainty as she explains through an interpreter that she is getting used to the thought of never again hugging her husband.
Yet Sipora has no regrets over helping the abused wives for whom she found shelter — sometimes inside nearly finished apartments constructed by her husband, a building contractor. “I would do the same thing all over again,” Sipora said. “For all my problems now I have family who care for me. These women have no one, only enemies hounding them, and no rights before the law.”
Following the latest crackdown on alleged opposition activists in Iran, Sipora’s husband told her he is under close watch and unlikely to be allowed to leave the country. “I could leave for Israel tomorrow, but then my husband’s fate is sealed,” he will pay the price for what will be seen as collaboration with the enemy.” Sipora said.
She could be deported as an illegal alien at any moment. (Maybe someone can put it a good word for her with Geert Wilders?)