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As Iranian women set their hijabs on fire, social media remembers old Persia, and their supreme god Ahura Mazda

With the protests against the hijab engulfing numerous cities across Iran, observers have pointed out that the uprisings denote a fightback by Persians against the Islamist rule in the country. The use of fire and aggression against the oppressor in Iran has become a symbol of invoking Ahura Mazda, the principal deity in Indo-Iranian religion, which predated Zoroastrianism.

There were chants against the ‘dictator,’ people were clapping, and then a woman came dancing in circles. She looked towards the sky, held her hijab in her hand for a couple of seconds, and then threw it into the fire. What followed was several women joining her in throwing their hijabs into the fire. Iran has been witnessing a string of protests since the 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini died after being taken under custody by the moral police for not ‘wearing the hijab properly’.

In another video shared by a Twitter user, a man hits a woman during the protests. Another man confronted him, and then he was beaten up.

With the protests against the hijab engulfing numerous cities across Iran, observers have pointed out that the uprisings denote a fightback by Persians against the Islamist rule in the country. The use of fire and aggression against the oppressor in Iran has become a symbol of invoking Ahura Mazda, the principal deity in Indo-Iranian religion, which predated Zoroastrianism. The protests are being seen as Persians reclaiming their land.

The history of Ahura Mazda, Zoroastrianism, and the importance of fire

Ahura Mazda, also known as Oromasdes, Ohrmazd, and Hurmuz, is the principal deity in the Indo-Iranian religion that predated Zoroastrianism. It was a polytheistic religion and consisted of several deities. Each of these deities has its own domain of power. Ahura Mazda is the principal God among those.

As per the Zoroastrian tradition, the Prophet Zoroaster, who started the religion Zoroastrianism, received a message from Ahura Mazda while partaking in a pagan purification ritual. Prophet Zoroaster believed that Ahura Mazda was the creator of the Universe. He is the Supreme God. As per some accounts, the Prophet was warned by God himself that a war was coming and taught him some principles. The teachings became the foundation of the religion known as Zoroastrianism.

The Prophet is believed to have been born in the 6th century BCE. However, some archaeological evidence dates the time of his birth between 1500 BCE and 1200 BCE.

Characteristics of Ahura Mazda, the Supreme God

The name Ahura Mazda comes from the Sanskrit word medhās, which means wisdom or intelligence. Thus, the name of the Supreme God translates to Wise God. In Zoroastrianism, it is believed that Ahura Mazda created life. He was the Supreme God in heaven and the source of all goodness and happiness. He is created and has no equal.

According to the sacred text of Zoroastrianism Avesta, Ahura Mazda has a son, i.e., fire. In Zoroastrian culture, there are also prayers to fire. It is considered a symbol of God and represents Ahura Mazda. As fire provides light, it serves as a symbol of the Supreme God. The places of worship in Zoroastrianism are also called ‘Fire Temples’. These temples feature an altar with an eternal flame that burns continuously. It is believed that the fire in these temples came directly from Ahura Mazda at the beginning of the time.

History of Zoroastrianism

According to scholars, the origin of Zoroastrianism dates to the Bronze Age, when the Prophet Zarathushtra first revealed and preached “the Good Religion”. Zarathushtra spread his monotheistic ethical doctrine across ancient Persia and Central Asia, converting a limited number of faithful men and women. Legend has it that Zarathushtra was invited to impart his teachings to King Vishtasp, who became one of the first of many Central Asian kings to adopt this new and revolutionary faith.

Zoroastrianism ultimately acquired widespread recognition, eventually becoming the religion of Cyrus the Great’s Achaemenian Empire (550-330 BC). Alexander the Great vanquished the Achaemenians in 330 BC, and the city of Persepolis, together with its collection of holy manuscripts, was destroyed by fire. After almost a century of Greek domination under the Seleucids, the Parthians (256 BCE-226 AD) ascended to power and dominated Iran for a number of years. The Sassanian Empire (226–652 AD) succeeded the Parthian Empire, and during the next 400 years, its monarchs made Zoroastrianism Iran’s official religion. With up to 30 million followers, this was the heyday of Zoroastrianism.

Persecution of the Zoroastrians

The Sassanian Empire was overthrown by Arab Muslims in 652 AD. A major portion of Zoroastrians converted to Islam; some practised their faith privately and were frequently persecuted. Forced conversions and intermittent violence were used as forms of discrimination and harassment against Zoroastrians both during and after the Arab Muslim conquest of Persia.

Throughout the history of Zoroastrianism, there is abundant documentation of Zoroastrians being persecuted. It is known that Muslims who came to the region during the Rashidun Caliphate invasion destroyed Zoroastrian temples. Many Zoroastrian temples were demolished, and mosques were built instead, with many Persian libraries set ablaze. Many Iranian fire temples were converted to mosques by Muslim rulers. In territories that Muslims had taken over, Zoroastrians even had to pay a tax called Jizya.

In order to escape persecution and the negative effects of being treated like second-class citizens during the Islamic caliphates, many Zoroastrians converted to Islam. Their children were sent to an Islamic school to learn Arabic and memorize the Quran, among other religious lessons, when a Zoroastrian subject converted. In an effort to persuade Zoroastrians to convert to Islam, the number of laws governing their behaviour rapidly increased, reducing their ability to participate in society and making life difficult for them. Zoroastrianism’s supremacy over religion in Persia was eventually toppled by the Arab invasion, which also made Islam the state’s official religion.

The connection between the anti-hijab movement, fire, and Persian Uprising

Ahura Mazda, the Supreme God of Zoroastrian culture, is the symbol of light and hope. The recent protests in Iran, people believe, may lead to the Persian Uprising against the Islamic rule in Iran that has suppressed the voice of Persians. There are many Persians on social media platforms who proudly call themselves Persians and not Muslims. The fire is seen as a symbol of invoking the Supreme God holds utmost importance as it brings strength among the protesters to stand against the oppressor. It is being seen as Persians reclaiming their land.

Several netizens expressed pleasure to see Persians fighting back against over 1,000 years of Islamic rule.

Chants of ‘take your Islam and go’ shows that the Persians are fed up with what they are seeing.

Not to forget, the father of Mahsa Amini refused to allow Islamic prayers over his daughter’s dead body. He told the Islamic Preacher who was praying, “Your Islam denounced her, now you’ve come to pray over her? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? You killed her for two strands of hair! Take your Islam and go.”

The death of Mahsa Amini

A 22-year-old Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini, who fell into a coma after she was beaten by the ‘Morality Police’ for wearing ‘improper hijab’, died on Friday in Tehran. Iranian media reported that Amini died in hospital, quoting official sources.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mahsa Amini was declared brain dead, hours after she was arrested by the ‘Morality Police’ in Tehran for “improper hijab”, which means she had not fully covered her hair. She was arrested by the police and then beaten in the police van while being taken to a detention centre, dubbed as a ‘re-education class’ for not conforming to the country’s mandatory hijab rules.

According to the reports, the incident is said to have happened on September 13 when Amini, a native of Saghez, Iran, had travelled to Tehran for a pleasure trip. The woman was with her brother Kiarash at the entrance to the Shahid Haghani Expressway when the ‘Morality Police’ arrived and arrested Amini for a one-hour ‘re-education class’.

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Anurag
Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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