• Mechthild

Intellectuals from Tehran

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

They gave up two careers, material safety - and are now sharing a container with other families. They do not to complain. "I am sad I did not come legally."

A bright spot: their son attends a school at OHF, run by the Israeli-Palestinian group NATAN.


NATAN's teachers are refugees using their skills to teach English and Math in their native language.

A large Iranians refugee group has fled religious or political persecution. I meet a serious and very quiet couple with their 8-year-old son who do not want their name or photo used. When he knew he would be arrested for his political views, the engineer left the same day. When he could not get a flight out of his city he took bus to Tehran to fly from there. Again he could not get out and so drove by bus to Turkey, on to Istanbul and Izmir. He tried 5 times to get on a boat before he could cross. They were 16 on the boat and had been given life vests. He arrived in Mitilini 10 months ago and had his interview 4 months ago.

His son and his wife a Psychologist could get a passport and papers. So the two flew to Istanbul a few weeks ago and like the father went to Izmir for the crossing.

They did cross on the first boat but the smugglers rushed all 16 and told them not put on their life jackets. The smugglers were afraid the Turkish police would spot the bright orange vests. “It was very scary and dangerous.”

They are now in Kara Tepe – it is safer than Moria but toilets are outside the containers and there is no AC. In the metal containers 35’C outside temperatures heat the inside to 40 or 45’C. The small window barely gets relief. Life in a camp is a bitter adjustment. The mother hopes is her interview on August 1st will speed up a solution. The woman, in her thirties, is trying to keep her civil calm. “We had everything in Iran. We had a good life,” – were it not for the conservative religious leaders who exercise outsize control – even over the more moderate president. The father explains that the President has wide support. With about 50 million his supporters are double the number of Khammeni's, the religious conservative. But Khammeni has the support of the military police SEPA.


But the school for her son in Kara Tepe provides a good structure. He has class for 3 hrs each morning: Eng, Math, Greek, then another set of 3 classes from 5-8 in school here at the OHF Community Center.

The school at OHF is run by the Israeli-Palestinian group NATAN, a wonderful initiative to bridge differences – in Europe and the Near East.

They use the 2-room wooden building for morning adult language classes (English and Greek) and children’s classes and sports in the evening. They organize and plan transportation, but teachers are recruited from the refugees, so Arabic, Farsi, French groups have a native teacher. The screens and fence are painted in caribbean colors, and a group of refugees is adding a third room and starting a small garden this week.


The engineer does not like the slow pace of the English lessons for adults here. Too many new students make progress hard. He decided to learn with an online program on the phone.

He is said: “I am sad I did not come legally. I know I am a problem for Greece and Europe. And more of us means a bigger problem.”

For the economic refugees he thinks if Europe or US would build/invest in factories in safe countries, people would stay there (“like in China”) – but we looked to find ‘safe countries’ on the mid-east map – there are not many.


OHF construction with refugees and volunteers.

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