Fugitive Iranian journalist Neda Amin arrived in Israel Thursday after she was informed that her host country, Turkey, was planning to deport her to Iran where she could face the death penalty for having written for Israeli media.
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"I'm safe now," Amin said Thursday morning in broken English, "Israel is my country." Speaking at a press conference with the editor of Times of Israel, David Horowitz, who welcomed her at Ben Gurion Airport, she said she intends to seek permanent residence status or citizenship.
"If the Israeli authorities will allow it, I would be happy, with all my heart and soul, to live here," she said, using a translator. Amin noted that her parental grandfather is Jewish, and said she has all her life felt a connection to Israel and to Judaism. “My roots are somewhat connected to Judaism. I loved Israel since my youth. I never accepted all the [Iranian] regime’s anti-Israel slogans. I always dreamed that I will somehow get to Israel.”
Amin said she had turned to other countries for help, but only Israel responded. “The only country that really acted rapidly was Israel,” she said. “As opposed to all the things that are being said, especially in Iran, about Israel, that it violates human rights, I saw that Israel took steps to keep human rights, to save the life of a human being.”
Amin said that had she been deported from Turkey back to Iran, she would have been arrested, forced to admit things that she did not do, tortured and possibly even executed. Her family, she said, cut off all ties with her because of her ties to Israel.
Commenting on the decision to permit Amin entry to Israel ealier this week, Interior Minister Arye Deri said, "This journalist faces real danger to her life only because she wrote columns for an Israeli news site. Under these clear humanitarian circumstances, I approved her entry without hesitation."
Amin was a women's rights activist in Iran and wrote a book on the subject, which was subsequently banned for publication. After escaping to Turkey, she was recognized as a refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Amin was recently interrogated by the Turkish authorities over her ties with Israel.
The Jerusalem Association of Journalists and the Union of Journalists in Israel had appealed to the interior minister to allow Amin to enter Israel as a refugee fleeing persecution.
"Neda Amin is expected to be arrested immediately upon her arrival in Iran, and she faces danger and execution due to her work as a journalist and the fact that she has written several opinion pieces for the Times of Israel in Persian," Achiya Ginosar, an attorney with the Jerusalem Association of Journalists, said in a letter to Dery.
Amin arrived on Thursday under a tourist visa and will now begin her application for asylum.