1.What is the official position of the Iranian government concerning Zoroastrians;2.Ramifications of changing from Islam to another religion in Iran;3.What is the treatment of Zoroastrians in practice;4.How would the treatment of a Zoroastrian man be affected if he were married to a Muslim woman? [IRN3103]


Under Section 13 of the Iranian Constitution, Zoroastrians, Christians and Jews are the only recognized minorities, and are guaranteed religious freedom; they are allowed to practice their religious faith and to educate their children in their beliefs "within the limits of the law" (Article 13). [ Constitutions of the Countries of the World: Iran, Albert Blaustein & G. Flanz, Eds., Dobbs Ferry: Oceana Publications, Inc., p. 22.]

Please refer to the attached section entitled "The Rights of Minorities" (pages 430 to 432) of A Clarification of Questions, by Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini, (translated by J. Borujerdi), Boulder: Westview Press, 1984. Zoroastrians. Conversion from Islam and accepting infidelity is not acceptable, and is termed "apostasy". Please refer to pages 428-9 of A Clarification of Questions which discuss two forms of apostates: innate-apostates and national apostates. An innate-apostate (one whose parents were Muslims and who embraced Islam but later left Islam) "is apparently unacceptable and, if a man, his ruling is execution and, if a woman, she is condemned to prison for life and [with] beating when praying and straitening of livelihood, but her repenting is acceptable and she will be freed if she repents." "A national apostate [a person converting from another faith to Islam, and then reconverting back to the other faith] will be caused to repent and in case of refusing to repent will be executed."

Please consult the following attachments for treatment of Zoroastrians in Iran:

Christian Delannoy, J.P. Pichard, Khomeiny: La Révolution Trahie, Carrere, 1988;

M.S. Kazemi, Iranians in Ontario, Toronto: Mihan Publishing Inc., 1986 (Background on Zoroastrianism);

U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, February 1989;

Gita Steiner, Iran, Lausanne: Office Central Suisse d'Aide aux Réfugiés, Novembre 1987;

Iranian Refugees: The Many Faces of Persecution, U.S. Committee for Refugees, December 1984.

In its 1988 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988, the U.S. Department of State reported that the "tests of Islamic knowledge and orthodoxy, required in the early post-revolutionary years for public or semipublic employment, have been dropped on the grounds that they conflict with the constitutional provision that the interrogation of people regarding their beliefs is forbidden." [ U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988,
p. 1348. Suspected members of the Baha'i faith, however, are not afforded the same protection, as it is considered a "misguided sect", and not officially recognized.] During the war, the ability to gain employment also rested upon whether or not military service had been completed. It was difficult to get a job if the applicant had not served the legally required time in the army. [ External Affairs, 4 July 1989.]

In a 1985 communication regarding the treatment of religious minorities in Iran, External Affairs Canada mentioned that, although it was unable to confirm reports it had received of disturbances of Anglican Church services, "those in a position to observe the situation indicate that members of the Christian minorities face an inevitable amount of harassment in Iran, since under the present theocratic government posts of any importance in the civil service are closed to them, and Christian students and their parents may feel obliged to reject textbooks used for compulsory Islamic study in the state schools." [ External Affairs Canada, filed 2 December 1985.] The Parliamentary Human Rights Group, in a 1986 report entitled The Abuse of Human Rights in Iran, notes that ethnic and religious minorities are severely harassed. [ Parliamentary Human Rights Group, The Abuse of Human Rights in Iran, (London), March 1986, p. 54; cited in Human Rights Internet Reporter, vol. 11, No. 4, November 1986, p. 110.]

In its Country Reports (1988), the U.S. State Department maintains that even though the permitted (pre-Islamic) religious minorities (Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians) are allowed to practice their religion, there "continue to be reports of officially sanctioned discrimination against these minorities, particularly in the areas of employment and public accommodations, and of severe discrimination by the Government against Muslims who have converted to Christianity." [ U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988, (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, February 1989), p. 1349.] The report discusses growing religious tolerance in the past year, but also alleges that "Christians are sometimes suspected of harbouring sympathies with Western powers." [ U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988, p. 1349.]

The U.S. Department of State Country Reports (1982) asserted that although "these groups [churches] have been able, at least in the Tehran area, to maintain their places of worship and their schools, their futures are not secure." [ U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1982, (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, February 1983), p. 1142.] A 1983 United Nations Human Rights Commission document contains allegations of harassment of members of the Sunni sect, Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian faiths. [ United Nations Economic and Social Council, "Information Relating to Violations of Human Rights in Iran Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights", E/CN.4/1983/19, Commission on Human Rights, 39th session, 22 February 1983, cited in Human Rights Internet Reporter, vol. 8:4/5, April to June 1983, p. 607.] It refers to the closure of schools run by religious minorities, and the dismissal of teachers. "According to the Constitution, [members of religious minorities] are not allowed to hold high-ranking government jobs ... [and] According to current interpretation of the Constitution, they are rejected from lower level jobs as well, even factory work." [E/CN.4/1983/19, in HRI Reporter April to June 1983, p. 607. ]

Marriage of a Muslim woman with a member of the Baha'i is "void". [ Borujerdi, p. 410.] "A Muslim woman cannot be contracted by an infidel nor can a Muslim man marry an infidel woman in a permanent fashion. However, there is no concern in concubinage with those women who are among People of the Book such as the Jews and Christians." [ Borujerdi, p. 316, # 2397.] Although it appears, from this passage, that a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man, the penalty is not proscribed. Information on how this apparent violation of a precept (marriage by a non-Muslim (Zoroastrian) man to a Muslim woman) would influence the treatment of the Zoroastrian man is not available to the IRBDC at this time.