In 1986 there were an estimated 32,000 Zoroastrians in Iran.
They speak Persian and are concentrated in Tehran, Kerman, and
Yazd. Zoroastrianism initially developed in Iran during the seventh
century B.C. Later, it became the official religion of the Sassanid
Empire, which ruled over Iran for approximately four centuries
before being destroyed by the Arabs in the seventh century A.D.
After Iran's incorporation into the Islamic empire, the majority
of its population was gradually converted from Zoroastrianism
to Islam, a process that was probably completed by the tenth century.
During the Qajar era there was considerable prejudice against
Zoroastrians. In the mid-nineteenth century, several thousand
Zoroastrians emigrated from Iran to British-ruled India to improve
their economic and social status. Many eventually acquired wealth
in India and subsequently expended part of their fortunes on upgrading
conditions in the Zoroastrian communities of Iran. The emphasis
placed on Iran's pre- Islamic heritage by the Pahlavis also helped
Zoroastrians to achieve a more respected position in society.
Many of them migrated from Kerman and Yazd to Tehran, where they
accumulated significant wealth as merchants and in real estate.
By the 1970s, younger Zoroastrians were entering the professions.
Like the Christians and Jews, the Zoroastrians are recognized
as an official religious minority under the Constitution of 1979.
They are permitted to elect one representative to the Majlis and,
like the other legally accepted minorities, may seek employment
in the government. They generally enjoy the same civil liberties
as Muslims. Although Zoroastrians probably have encountered individual
instances of prejudice, they have not been persecuted because
of their religious beliefs.
Data as of December 1987