Iranian pilot who defected to Turkey threatens to seek asylum in Israel


(JTA) — An Iranian pilot threatened to move to Israel and work with the state to undermine the Islamic Republic’s government.

Maj. Ahmad-Reza Khosravi, who defected to Turkey last year, said he will seek asylum in Israel if Iran doesn’t stop intimidating his wife and son, The Times of Israel reported Wednesday.

Should Khosravi follow through, he would not be the only non-Jewish Iranian to seek haven in Israel. Payam Feili, a gay Iranian poet, has been living in Tel Aviv since last year and has said he hopes to stay in the country “long term.”

Khosravi, 39, was a pilot in the helicopter unit of the Iranian Security Services before fleeing to Turkey last March following unsuccessful attempts to be discharged from the military over his ideological objections to the regime.

Interviewed in Turkey by The Times of Israel’s Persian edition, Khosravi said if the Iranian government does not stop bothering his wife and son, who remained in Iran, he will do whatever he can to hurt the regime.

Khosravi told The Times of Israel that after serving 19 years in Iran’s security services, he put in a request to be discharged due to “the differences in beliefs and opinions with the regime, and since I do not believe in the religion of Islam,” he said.

“I had problems with the regime’s policies because they are based on deception, duplicity and lies,” Khosravi said.

After his requests to resign were turned down several times, Khosravi said the Security Services started harassing him and his family, putting them under surveillance.

Khosravi crossed the border into Turkey in March 2015, and “since I was a military person who had defected from Iran, and therefore my life was in danger, the [United Nations] and the Turkish police took care of my issue with extra sensitivity and guarded me very carefully,” he said.

Last September, Turkish authorities arrested two Iranians who allegedly were in the country on a mission to kidnap Khosravi and return him to Iran.

Khosravi told The Times of Israel that the Iranian government is worried his defection could inspire other pilots or military officers to do the same.

Recommended from JTA