Zoroastrians - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The community is divided into two groups, the hereditary priests and the laity. As among the Muslims, the influential families are those that have members strategically distributed throughout the most important sectors of society, each prepared to support the other in order to ensure family prestige and status.

Political Organization. There is no supreme head of the Zoroastrians in Iran. In each city, there is a Zoroastrian association known as the "Anjoman Zardoshtian." Its governing members are elected by the community. Today the anjoman in Tehran, owing to its location, has developed a position of leadership; however, local affairs are handled by the local anjoman. In addition to these associations, each city has a youth club, which is mainly involved with sports and cultural activities. In Tehran, a Zoroastrian Women's Association has also been established. Government officials do recognize minority groups such as the Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians. They are permitted to sustain organizations, elect a representative to the Majlis (lower house of Parliament), maintain religious schools, and publish periodicals; however, they are restricted in political activities. Non-Muslims cannot reach command positions in the armed forces and cannot achieve policy-making positions in government. The Zoroastrian community was formerly organized through priest rotation; now it is through appointments and by the influence of the anjoman structure. Formerly there was a katkhoda, a local political leader, and, at the highest level, the kalantar (magistrate) of the entire Zoroastrian community.

Social Control. Of concern to the Zoroastrian community are the ritual calendar, the upkeep of the priesthood, and conversion. There is also a conflict between the younger generation and the older one, which is more orthodox. The community is in transition, and the population is attempting to become Westernized.

Conflict. Boundaries have always been maintained between the various religious groups such as the Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and Baha'is, especially under the Islamic government. One of the ways to alleviate intercommunal tension is to allow non-Zoroastrians to enter the fire temples. Muslims have been seen participating in the funerals of Zoroastrian friends. In the past, because of strict Zoroastrian observance of the laws of purity, this was not permitted. Until 1885, the Zoroastrians were subject to various forms of persecution. They were not allowed to wear rings, and their girdles were made of rough canvas. Until 1895, they were not permitted to carry umbrellas or wear glasses or spectacles. Until 1896, they were forced to twist their turbans instead of folding them (Malcolm 1905, 45).

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