An Iranian group is threatening to destroy what many believe to be the ancient burial site of Queen Esther and Mordechai in Hamedan.
The Basij group, a hardline student wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, released a statement earlier this month threatening to tear down the tomb and replace it with a Palestinian consulate, according to CBN News.
The threat comes after President Donald Trump announced his “Deal of the Century” Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.
“We warn the United States and the Zionist regime … that the first act of fulfilling their filthy desires and the slightest attack on Palestine and the holy al-Quds (Jerusalem) means that they will no longer occupy a place as Esther’s tomb … we’ll turn it into a Palestine consulate and you will see the fulfillment of this promise,” the statement read in part.
Ali Malmir, the director of Hamedan’s tourism office, however, said earlier this month that the tomb would be impossible to destroy because the tomb is a cultural heritage building.
The head of the Basij group in Hamedan, Tayeb Frydras, responding to Malmir’s statement, said Iran must show its power and Palestinian rights are more important than protecting Jewish cultural sites.
Meanwhile, the Alliance for Rights of All Minorities (ARAM), a US-based watchdog group monitoring minority rights in Iran reported that the Basij group already attempted to raid the tomb last week.
According to covering reports, members of Iranian #Basij attempted to raid the historic site yesterday in an act of revenge against the Israelis Palestinian peace plan by President Trump. #dealofcentury. #EsterandMordechai pic.twitter.com/TspHom7VWM— ARAM Iran (@ARAMalliance) February 16, 2020
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a statement as well, saying they are “troubled” by the threats.
The threats also come just weeks from Purim, a holiday dedicated to honoring Esther and Mordechai.
“With less than a month before #Purim, people of all faiths should speak out before this desecration takes place,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League.
The tomb of Queen Esther and Mordechai are an important Jewish pilgrimage site in Iran. This isn’t the first time the site has been threatened. In December 2010, a group of Islamists threatened to destroy the tomb in response to fears that Israel was planning to damage a mosque in Jerusalem.
“Muslims beware they have started the destruction of Al-Aqsa mosque while their second sacred site in Iran, the Esther and Mordecai tomb is at peace and no Muslims make a sound,” the protesters said in 2010. “We, the student basijis … warn Zionist regime leaders if they assault the Al-Aqsa mosque in any way we will destroy the tomb of these lowly murderers.”