After thirty years of efforts, conducted by Maneckji Limji Hataria, and financially supported by the Society for the Amelioration of the Condition of Zoroastrians in Persia (Amelioration Society) in India, jezya (an unfair poll-tax for only non-Muslims) was withdrawn in the year eighteen hundred eighty two (1882). At that time, Iran Zoroastrians concrete first institutional steps in Kerman, Yazd and Tehran. Then fundraising for schools, fire temples and dakma was initiated.
Everybody may be surprised to find out that schools had such a high priority. From eighteen eighty two (1882) until nineteen seventy nine (1979), more than fifty two (52) schools were established by Iran Zoroastrians. Most of the schools are provided by individuals, as their good-will.
Some of the schools belong to Zoroastrian Institutes, which are called “Anjuman”.
Again everybody may be surprised to hear that Zoroastrian Institutes in Tehran, Yazd and Kerman, did not limit these schools to any specific religion or race. At the documents, reporting the opening of all these schools, it is emphasized that all the children and adolescents are welcome to educate and be nurtured at these schools. They see them an investment for the brighter future of Iran.
From these schools some are more well-known:
These schools, once, were the best schools of the city and perhaps the country. Some of the ministers and one of the prime ministers of Iran were graduated from these schools, of course before nineteen seventy nine (1979).
Again it is emphasized that the number of schools established by Iran Zoroastrians are really enormous and impressive, when one compares it to their population in Iran. It proves once more how much they are fascinated to their homeland and how much they believe science and art are the best ways to have a better life.
Obviously, writing the complete history of these schools is not the aim of this article. This article is not to dive deep in it. We want to only write the related historical context to be able to understand better, the current situation.
After fall of the last Iranian Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the religious regime invaded the Zoroastrians schools by their gunmen. The gunmen who become the managers and assistants of the schools: Mohammad Afshar, Mahmoud Younesabadi, Hossein Khazaeli, Bijan Seghatoleslami Sadr, and some others.
They entered the schools, while keeping their guns at their hands and students and teachers with their pens at their hands!! They asked the school managers to leave the schools immediately.
The religious regime tried its best to take the schools over. After the armed invasion, the number of Zoroastrian students decreased. The regime’s excuse was ready: the population of Zorostrian students is little at the schools and the schools will be taken from Zoroastrian Anjumans.
Iran Zoroastrians, once again, showed their solidarity and nearly all of them registered their children at their own schools. The religious regime, disappointed by the reaction of Zoroastrian society, changed the rules of the game. The regulation for Anjuman elections was completely changed by the regime.
By the new regulation, it is not important who is elected by the people; only the ones who are approved by the regime, can become a member of Anjuman. In addition, the regime summons the head of Anjuman every 2-3 weeks to MoI to describe all major plans of Anjuman. Without their approval, the head of Anjuman should not sign the decision of Anjuman members. Without regime approval, the head of Anjuman must stop any plan which is not accordant with regime’s interest.
We know that all Parliament Members (PM) including the PM of Iran Zoroastrians, must be approved by the regime. So obviously, the head of Anjumans and PM are figureheads, nothing more.
It is apparent that during past 3 decades, the authorities of Zoroastrian society are taking care of regime interest. It looks like that Zartoshti society (the other name for Zoroastrian society) is electing them, but the obvious fact is that the favorite candidates are omitted by the regime. Any candidate who don’t guarantee the interests of the regime, is marked: disqualified. So you can imagine Zartoshti PM and head of Anjuman are more protecting whose interests!
Let’s come back to the schools: everything gets ready to impose an unfair agreement forcefully to Anjuman by the religious regime through its Zartoshti figureheads. The agreement says that the schools are fully controlled by the regime and instead, they pay some money. It is more than 10 years that the money has not been paid and we are at a good point to say automatically the agreement is cancelled.
During the past three decades, two times happened that Zoroastrian individuals asked Anjuman to cancel the imposed agreement. They had a comprehensive plan to turn back the schools under complete control of Anjuman. As expected, once the head of Anjuman at that time, and the other time the current Zartoshtis’ PM showed their strong conflict of interest with Zartoshti society and stepped against the society intention.
With the worsening of religious discrimination, against Iran Zoroastrians inside Iran, many Iran Zoroastrians emigrate to North America. Decrease in Zoroastrian population in Iran, was just the favorite ultimate goal of the religious regime.
Now their figureheads in Anjuman and Parliament are trying to make the Zoroastrian schools completely ready to be swallowed by the regime. They plan to switch the schools, to Trustee-managed schools. Sixty (60) percent of Trustee are Muslims, appointed by the regime. Then Trustee can shift the school way in any direction they wish. A very unfortunate destiny is waiting for Zoroastrian schools in Iran. The same that happened to Kabul after US army left there!
The schools which belongs to Christians and Jews are given back to them a decade ago. The reason was the pressure from foreign countries. Zoroastrians are authentic Iranians. They have no country outside Iran to press the regime to be fair to them. We expect the real humans, to help us.
I am Kayghobaad Behdin, the author of this article and a Zoroastrian social activist. I have done many research and activities on education and nurture of children and adolescents. I was one of the persons who has given Tehran Anjuman a comprehensive plan to take the schools back from the regime, which was suppressed by PM. Please help us now.