A local organization dedicated to the Zoroastrian religion and philosophy on Thursday held a special ceremony at one of the group’s fire temples located in the Kurdistan Region.
Members of the Basna Organization, whose efforts usually focus on preserving local archaeological sites, performed the rite in Sulaimani province’s town of Darbandikhan.
During the event, participants observed a number of the religion’s rituals and read some of the faith’s texts and core doctrines aloud to attendees. Organizers also offered a special award to the mayor of Darbandikhan for his efforts in protecting such ancient sites as the temple during his tenure.
Zoroastrianism is an ancient religion with elements of both monotheism and polytheism in which followers worship a benevolent deity named Ahura Mazda. The prophet Zoroaster, also known as Zarathushtra, is said to have introduced the religion approximately 4,000 years ago as part of a belief system based on concepts of good, evil, and retribution.
One of the world’s oldest continuously practiced religions, it is known for its triple motto of Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds. One of its primary sacred texts is called the Avesta.
The group’s numbers are estimated at close to 190,000 followers, mostly located in Iran, India, the Kurdistan Region, Pakistan, other Central Asian countries, and smaller communities in some Western nations.
In recent years, many Kurds who have become disillusioned by violence committed in the name of other more common religions in the Middle East have opted to convert to Zoroastrianism.
The Kurdistan Region is home to at least nine different religious groups including Muslims, Christians, Jews, Yezidis (Ezidis), Zoroastrians, Kakais (Yarsan), Baha’is, and Sabian Mandaeans. Many of these groups live in diverse communities in social harmony.
In 2015, Zoroastrianism gained official recognition as a protected faith in the Kurdistan Region and the group has a representative in the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs.