The Yarsani Consultative Assembly of Civil Activists has issued a statement protesting against the Islamic Republic’s systematic and widespread discrimination against religious minorities, and has called for a revision of the Constitution to ensure unconditional equality for all citizens.
The statement, published on Thursday, January 28, outlines the ways in which people following the Yarsan faith have been deprived of their rights as citizens since the birth of the Islamic Republic in 1979. These include the right to employment in government offices and institutions, the right to hold public office, the right to postgraduate education, and the right to sit as directors of companies. The only instances where they have been entitled to these rights have been when they have foregone their religious identity.
The statement issued by the Consultative Assembly of Civil Activists also protests against the compulsory teaching of Islamic Sharia to Yarsani children. “Yarsani children are forced to abandon their religion upon entering school and compulsory teaching of Islamic duties and Sharia is forced on them. Yarsani soldiers are often forced to hide the truth of their religion and abandon their religious identity." In 2013, three young people from the Yarsan faith set themselves on fire in protest against the widespread discrimination they faced.
The recent statement describes that the Yarsani people have been able to achieve justice and eliminate a degree of discrimination, including confronting parts of the media that have traditionally insulted and misrepresented the faith — all of this without any real or officially-instituted means of defense. Their protest and fight for equality continue using a range of strategies and initiatives, the statement says.
The assembly also demands Iran’s constitution be reviewed and amended so that it recognizes the Yarsan religion and guarantees the unconditional equality of all citizens of the nation, including ethnic and religious minorities: "We want to make the necessary arrangements for this recognition of the Yarsan faith with specific mention in the Constitution. All discriminatory laws must be repealed or amended, including the law on vetting, employment, education, and participation in elections. The current laws of the country lay the foundations for the insults, injustices, and discrimination the Yarsani people face."
The Yarsan religion, along with its rituals and culture, dates back to fourteenth-century Iran. Most Yarsanis live in western Iran and are ethnic Goran Kurds, though the religion does have followers from other ethnicities. The religion’s holy tract is the Gore Divan and the religion shares some of the same beliefs as Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism.
There are no official statistics regarding the size of the Yarsan community in Iran, but some Yarsan sources estimate the population to be as many as three million.