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October 30: The Shiraz Blood Libel

October 30, 2013
judeo-persian_v_fig3Twelve Jews were killed and fifty were injured as the six thousand residents of the Jewish quarter of Shiraz, Iran, suffered a pogrom on this date in 1910 and were stripped bare of their possessions. The riot, one of only several recorded Muslim-inspired blood-libel pogroms (compared to hundreds in Christian lands), began with the rumor of a ritual murder of a Muslim girl. (The body found near the Jewish cemetery, in fact, was that of a disinterred Jewish boy, buried a week earlier.) “The thieves formed a chain in the street,” according to a witness from the Alliance Israélite Universelle. Looting some 260 households, they “passed along the line carpets, bundles of goods, bales of merchandise . . . anything, in a word, which was salable. Anything, which did not have commercial value or which, on account of its weight or size, could not be carried off, was, in a fury of vandalism, destroyed and broken. The doors and windows of the houses were torn off their hinges and carried away or smashed to pieces. The rooms and cellars were literally plowed up to see whether the substratum did not conceal some wealth.” The Shiraz Jewish community dates back to the 8th century. In 1979, at the time of the Islamic revolution, about 8,000 Jews lived in the city. According to the most recent Iranian census, there are now 8,756 Jews in the country as a whole. “The libel was combined with crude attempts to accuse Jews of desecration of the Quran. . . . Robbery may well have been the main motive. . . . Relief was supplied by the Alliance Israelite and by Muslim officials and private citizens.” —Zionism and Israel Encyclopedic Dictionary