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Zoroastrians had to Cancel Sadeh Festival Due to Ashura


28 January 2007




Edited by Shapour Suren-Pahlav


LONDON, (CAIS) -- Zoroastrians in Yazd will not hold their ancient feast called ’Sadeh’ this year since it coincides with Ashura. Ashura marks tenth day of the lunar month of Muharram when the third Shiite Imam, Hussein and his 72 companions were killed in the plains of Karbala in present-day Iraq.

Announcing this, head of Zoroastrian Association of Yazd Province told Persian service of IRNA that the ceremony was held on January 30 each year but was called off this year as a token of respect for Hussein. 


Sohrab Firouzfar further said that this is for the first time that the religious festival is being cancelled. Yet this highlighted the difficult plight of Iran's estimated 25,000 Zoroastrians under the country's Shia Islamic governing system.

Iranians along with the Zoroastrian communities are celebrating the Sadeh Festival on January 30 each year to commemorate the discovery of fire during the reign of Hushang, a mythical king of the Kianian Dynasty, which recalls the importance of light, fire and energy; light which comes from God is found in the hearts of his creation.


Although for the majority of Iranians Sadeh has no religious significance and no specific rituals are involved other than lighting fires at sunset and having a cheerful time, Iranians of all faiths make a collective effort at this day to keep up with their ancient traditions and to celebrate the precious things God granted humanity. Since 1979 revolution Islamic Republic authorities have desperately tried to deter Iranians from celebrating their ancient festivals -- and in response, people are showing their defiance of the regime, by celebrating the pre-Islamic holidays with unprecedented fanfare, and more fanciful and grandiose than the previous year.


Officially, Zoroastrians - along with Jews, Armenian and Assyrian Christians - are a constitutionally protected religious minority with guaranteed parliamentary representation. In practice, complaints of discrimination are widespread. Access to high-level posts in the government and armed forces is blocked. Some Zoroastrians say they are pressured to change their religion. Members of religious minorities are generally barred from becoming school principals. Applicants for public sector employment are screened for their adherence to Islam.


Despite legislation decreeing that all religions are entitled to equal blood money (compensation) awards, Zoroastrians say that, in reality, they still receive only half the sums given to Muslims, and their lives considered worth half of their Muslim compatriots. Nor do they feel wholly free in a land where their faith was the majority denomination until the forced mass conversions to Islam that followed the seventh century Arab invasion. Muslim men are free to marry non-Muslim women, but the opposite does not apply. Marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men are not recognized. A law awarding Zoroastrians who convert to Islam their entire families' inheritance at the expense of non-converted relatives has caused misery and bitter resentment. 


Since 1979, large number of Zoroastrians have sought refugee in West, especially US under an officially backed programme to help Iranian religious minorities. 


Some 25,000 Zoroastrians live in Iran, 6,000 of whom are in Yazd province. 







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