Category Archives: Minorities

Easter 2017 in Iran (Photos)

This Easter was celebrated by all Christian denominations on the same day, which is unusual. The date usually differs, often even by weeks, between Eastern and Western Christianity, since the calculations are based on the Julian calendar and Gregorian calendar respectively.

Like last Christmas, Muslims in Abadan joined on Easter Sunday the single Christian family in the city at Surp Karapet Church.

The majority of Iranian Christians are ethnic Armenians and Assyrians, who follow the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East respectively. Armenians celebrate the Nativity and baptism of Jesus on January 6, at the same time as the Epiphany. The Assyrians today celebrate Christmas on December 25.

Photos: St. Grigor Lusavoritch Church and St. Sarkis Cathedral in Tehran

Sources: Tasnim News, IRNA, Mehr News, Fars News, Payvand News, Wikipedia

Photos: Christians and Muslims celebrate Christmas in Iran

The bell of Surp Karapet Church in Abadan, Khuzestan Province, rang before noon of Christmas Day on December 25, for the only Christian family of the city. Muslim citizens of Abadan joined the feast to wish this family a happy Christmas and to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ with them.

Surp Karapet, the church of Abadan’s Gregorian Armenians, lies adjacent to Imam Musa Ibn Ja’far Mosque. It was constructed in the 1950s, repaired in 1996 and reopened in 1999, since 40% of the building was damaged during the eight-year war. It is registered as an Iranian national monument and used to serve as the largest hall of meetings for Abadan’s Armenians.

Iran is one of the safest places in the Middle East for Christians with many Iranians loving the flashy side of Christmas. Shoppers gathered over the past month in the Armenian districts of Somayeh and New Julfa — the biggest Christian areas in Tehran and Isfahan — to pick up fake trees and stock up on baubles, reindeer toys and plastic snowmen.

The majority of Iranian Christians are ethnic Armenians and Assyrians, who follow the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East respectively. Armenians celebrate the Nativity and baptism of Jesus on January 6, at the same time as the Epiphany. The Assyrians today celebrate Christmas on December 25.

Early traditions observed the birth of Jesus Christ on January 6 but by the end of the 3rd century, Christmas in Rome was moved to December 25, to override a pagan feast dedicated to the birth of the sun. Since 1923, the Armenian Apostolic Church has mainly used the Gregorian Calendar. The only exception is the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, where the old Julian calendar is used, putting Nativity celebrations on 19 January in the Gregorian calendar.

Photos: Christmas shopping in Tehran and Isfahan, Surp Karapet Church in Abadan (Khuzestan) and liturgies at Surp Mesrob Church in Arak (Markazi), Vank Cathedral in Isfahan, and St. Grigor Lusavoritch Church, St. Joseph Church, St. Sarkis Cathedral, St. Targmantchats Church and Surp Vardanantz Church in Tehran

Sources: France 24, armenianchurch-ed.net, Wikipedia | Christianity in the Middle East (Iran), Wikipedia | Christmas traditions (Assyrians), Wikipedia | Armenian Apostolic Church, Mehr News Agency (in Persian), Tehran (BORNA 1, BORNA 2, ISNAIRNA, ANA), Isfahan (IRNA), Surp Karapet Church, Abadan (Iran Front Page, Twitter @afptehran, instagram @sara_kaabii, instagram @majid.rahimi1), Surp Mesrob, Arak (ISNA), Vank Cathedral, Isfahan (IRNA, Tasnim News Agency), St. Grigor Lusavoritch, Tehran (BORNA), St. Joseph’s, Tehran (Twitter @ali_noorani_teh, Mail Online), St. Sarkis Cathedral, Tehran (Mehr News Agency, IRNA 1, ANA, IRNA 2), St. Targmantchats, Tehran (ANA), Surp Vardanantz, Tehran (BORNA)

4th Christian-Muslim Summit in Iran: A dialogue against fanaticism and violence

Delegations of Anglican / Episcopal and the Roman Catholic Church, Shia and Sunni Islam,  gathered in Tehran from November 6th to November 9th for the fourth Christian-Muslim Summit of Religious Leaders to reflect and share ideas around the theme of “Respect for human dignity: the foundation for peace and security”.

The summits began in 2007 when former Iranian President Muhammad Khatami spoke at Washington National Cathedral in the US. He called for a gathering of religious and cultural leaders from eastern and western perspectives. The first summit took place at Washington National Cathedral in 2010 and subsequent summits were held in Beirut in 2012 and in Rome in 2014.

At the closing ceremony, the participants issued a ‘Call of Action’ (full text here), in which they underlined the importance that Sacred Texts attach to love, kindness and compassion for fellow human beings, warning against misinterpreting these texts to wrongly justify violence, persecution, intimidation and hate. They called for a “re-reading, renewed comprehension and accurate teaching of our religious beliefs, values and principles, respectful of every human person, of human dignity, and of human rights and responsibilities”, adding that “the willingness to be self-critical can constitute a significant way to counteract fanaticism.”

The statement also condemned desecration of religious sanctities and committed themselves to “promote a culture of non-violence” and to “protect freedom of human thought, belief, and religious practice, by respecting human dignity of all persons.” It also included protection of religious minorities, stating that “the concepts of believer/non-believer, should not affect citizens’ rights and social relationships” and underlined the need for inclusion of women in inter-religious dialogue, promoting the culture of peace, and defending freedom of thought and religion.

The Call to Action was signed on behalf of the four delegations by Ayatollah Professor Sayyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad, director of Islamic studies at the Iran Academy of Sciences (Head of Shia delegation); Shaikh Dr Mahdi al-Sumaidaei, the Grand Mufti of Sunni Muslims in Iraq (Head of Sunni delegation); Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja in Nigeria (Head of Catholic Delegation); and Bishop John Chane, senior advisor on inter-religious dialogue to Washington National Cathedral in the US (Head of Anglican/Episcopal Delegation).

Sources: Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) I, ACNS 2, AsiaNews.it, IQNA, Mehr News Agency, Tehran Times, ISNA

Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in Iran (Photos)

Iranian Armenians rallied to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire, demanding the Turkish government to recognize the Armenian Genocide. In Tehran a memorial service was held at the St. Sarkis Cathedral.

Related article: The other Iran | Iranian Armenians rally in Tehran to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

Sources: Mehr News Agency, Azad News Agency, Jam-e Jam Online, Tasnim News Agency, Young Journalists Club

Iranian Zoroastrians celebrate Farvardinegan (Photos)

Farvardinegan or Farvardog (Furudog) is a Zoroastrian ceremony that takes place on Farvardin 19th (April 8th) to remember the deceased. It is celebrated as a feast, and the spirits of the deceased are called to unite in their joy.

Farvardin is the name of the first month of the year in the Iranian calendar and derives from the word “Fravahar”. It refers to the choice of leading a moral life. To Iranian Zoroastrians, Fravahar is used to describe the soul of an individual. It is the guiding spirit of human beings assigned by God that returns to God after death. Thus, the festival of Farvardinegan is the remembrance day for the Fravahars and the souls of the departed.

From the morning of the 19th of Farvardin, Zoroastrians from different neighborhoods and villages head to the graves of their dear ones and revere their departed, pray to Ahura Mazda, recite Avesta (the sacred book of the Zoroastrians) for the Fravahars. They burn agarwood and olibanum for the peace of the souls and put plants, fruits, candles and laraks (a combination of seven dried fruits) on the graves.

Photos: Farvardinegan Ceremony across Iran, 2016

They also bake and cook local breads and foods which are served in traditional ceremonies. A tablecloth (Sofreh) is strecthed for the loved ones to pay respects and homage in special rooms allocated for this purpose. Feeling the absence of their loved ones, the families pray for the happiness of their departed soul and bring flowers, fruits and sweets.

Thousands of Zoroastrians across Iran participate in this ceremony in cities like Yazd, Shiraz, Isfahan, Ahvaz, Tehran, Kerman, Taft, etc.

Sources: amordadnews.com (Yazd), amordadnews.com (Isfahan), amordadnews.com (Tehran), amordadnews.com (Kerman), Honar Online (Tehran), berasad.com (Tehran I), berasad.com (Tehran II), berasad.com (Yazd), berasad.com (Cham Village, Yazd), berasad.com (Kerman), Wikipedia | Farvardinegan, berasad.com

Photos: Iranian Christians celebrate New Year in Isfahan

Some Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Years’ on Jan. 1, while Iranian Armenians celebrate Christmas at the same time as the Epiphany on Jan. 6.

More content on Iranian Christians on this blog: The other Iran | Christians

Source: http://www.irna.ir/fa/Photo/3022149/

World Cup 2018 Qualifications: Sunni, Christian, Shiite players score goals for Iran in one game

Three Iranian players with three different religions scored goals in the same international match, that Iran won with 3:0.

Iran Christian Sunni and Shia players

It was during the AFC World Cup 2018 Qualification game against India.

Iranian national team’ goals in the match, held in Indian city of Bangalore, were scored by three different players:

Sardar Azmoun, who scored the first goal for Iran, is born in Gonbad-e Kavus in north-eastern Iran into a Sunni family. He is an Iranian Turkmen, and speaks fluently both languages: Turkmen and Persian.

Iran’s second goal was scored by Andranik Teymourian, an Iranian Armenian. Teymourian has become the first Christian to lead Iran’s national football team as its permanent captain.
Some very interesting article on Andranik Teymourian: https://theotheriran.com/tag/andranik-teymourian/

Mehdi Taremi, who is Shiite like many other Iranians, scored last goal in a match that ended with the hosts suffering a 3-0 defeat against Iran in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match at Kanteerava Stadium.

Other interesting articles and photo series regarding Iran’s minorities: https://theotheriran.com/tag/minorities/

Sources: RealIran.com, wikipedia | Sardar Azmoun

Holy muron was celebrated at St. Sarkis Cathedral in Tehran, Iran

In the Armenian Church the Holy Muron is prepared and blessed every seven years. It is composed of olive oil and forty-eight aromas and flowers. The remaining portion of the previous blessed holy oil is poured into the newly prepared oil during the blessing ceremony and passes the blessing from generation to generation. It is said that this very procedure has been followed for nearly 1700 years.

The Catholicos of all Armenians in Etchmiadzin combines a new mixture of holy muron in the cauldron every seven years using a portion of the holy muron from the previous blend. This is distributed to all of the Armenian churches throughout the world. Here are some photos of this years ceremony in Tehran’s St. Sarkis Cathedral:

More post about Iranian Christians: Click here

More information about the ceremony can be found here: Wikipedia

Sources: theorthodoxchurch.info, ISNA | Photos

Iran’s Golestan Province: Turkmen Sahra (Photos)

Turkmen Sahra (meaning Plain of Turkmen) is a region located mainly in Golestan Province, reaching to the Provnice of Razavi Khorasan and North Khorasan. It is situated in the northeast of Iran, near the Caspian Sea, bordering Turkmenistan. The majority of the inhabitants of the Turkmen Sahra are ethnic Turkmen. The biggest city is Gorgan which is dominated by Persian inhabitants, though in recent years there has been immigration of Turkmen and Zabuli from southern Iran. Other cities of Turkmensahra are Gonbad (called Kummet in Turkmen), Aqqala (Ak Qala), Kalaleh (Kelala), Gomishan (Kumushdepe), meaning the “silvery hill” in Turkmen, and Bandar Torkaman (Bender Turkmen), generally just called Bandar.

Sources: Tasnim News | Photos, Wikipedia |  Turkmen Sahra, Wikipedia | Iranian Turkmen

Photos: Exhibit at Laleh Gallery, Tehran, in memory of Iranian-Assyrian artist Hannibal Alkhas

Hannibal Alkhas (1930 – 2010) was a Christian Iranian sculptor, painter and author that lived in the US as well as in Iran. His work is deeply inspired by the ancient bas-reliefs and stone sculptures of Ancient Assyria, Babylon and Daric-Persia.

Alkhas’ students are displaying their latest works in an exhibit being held in memory of the artist. It will run until June 21 at Laleh Gallery in Tehran.

The exhibit showcases works by artists like Reza Bangiz, Bahram Dabiri, Rozita Sharafjahan, Taraneh Sadeghian, Niloufar Ghaderinejad, Ahmad Vakili, Ali Nedaee, Nasser Mohammadi, Masoud Saadeddin, Katayoun Moghaddam, Hadi ziaeddini, Hamed Sahihi, and others.

Sources: Honaronline.ir | Featured, Tavoos Art Magazine | News

Andranik Teymourian – first Christian to lead Iran’s football team as its permanent captain

The 32-year-old midfielder, known as Ando – or Samurai, due to his hairstyle – is not shy of showing his Christianity, often crossing himself on the field. In April 2015, Teymourian, who has played for Bolton Wanderers and Fulham, became the first Christian to lead Iran’s football team as its permanent captain. His first appearance as captain of the national team was however on 18 May 2014, when Teymourian captained Iran in the match against Belarus. In the same year he was named “Iranian footballer of the year”.

“I’m happy that as a Christian I play in a Muslim team,” he said in a recent interview. “I have Armenian roots but I hold the Iranian passport and I’m proud of that, I hold my flag high. I hope I can enhance the good reputation of Armenian people in Iran.”

Iran's midfielder Andranik Teymourian gestures during the friendly football match Iran vs Belarus in preparation for the FIFA World Cup 2014 on May 18, 2014 in Kapfenberg, Austria. AFP PHOTO / SAMUEL KUBANI (Photo credit should read SAMUEL KUBANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Ethnic Armenians make up the majority of Iran’s estimated 300,000 Christians. Armenians are fully integrated in Iranian society, from the musician Loris Tjeknavorian to Sombat Hacoupian, who founded one of the country’s most famous men’s clothing brands and is now a household name.

Although Islam is Iran’s official religion, it recognises Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians as accepted religious minorities. They are permitted their house of worship and usual religious services, and have reserved seats in the Iranian parliament. In a country where alcohol and pigmeat are forbidden, Christians are allowed to distil booze and eat pork.

There are at least 600 churches in Iran, including the sixth-century St Mary Church of Tabriz, mentioned by Marco Polo in his travel book. The adjacent province of West Azerbaijan boasts the ancient St Thaddeus Monastery, a Unesco world heritage site.

All minorities related posts on this blog: The other Iran | Minorities (with lots of interesting photos)

Read more: The Guardian , wikipedia | Andranik Teymourian

Iranian Armenians rally in Tehran to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

Thousands of Iranian Armenians rallied in Tehran on Friday, protesting in front of the Turkish Embassy to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

Many in the crowd, who marched from the Armenian Church in Tehran to the Turkish Embassy, held signs in Farsi and English asking the international community to recognize the genocide, while others chanted slogans calling for justice and the downfall of the Turkish government. “What Armenians demand now is that the Turkish government recognize [the massacre] as genocide and accept its legal consequences,” Karen Khanlari told Iran’s Press TV during the protests.

There were different events organized to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on April 23 and April 24. In Tehran were the religious ceremonies held at the St. Sarkis Cathedral.

Following sovereign countries have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide: Argentina (2003) , Austria (2015), Belgium (1998), Bolivia (2014), Canada (1996), Chile (2007), Cyprus (1975) was the first country to raise the issue to the UN General Assembly, Czech Republic (2015), France (1998), Germany (2015), Greece (1999), Holy See (2000), Italy (2000), Lithuania (2005), Lebanon (1997), Netherlands (2004), Poland (2005), Russia (1995), Slovakia (2004), Sweden (2010), Switzerland (2003), Uruguay (1965) was the first country to recognize the events as genocide, Venezuela (2005). On Apr 24, 2015 the Bulgarian parliament approved a resolution using the phrase “mass extermination of the Armenian People in the Ottoman Empire”. The United States of America, Israel, the United Kingdom, Australia or Spain do not use the term genocide to refer to these facts.

Robert Beglaryan and Karen Khanlaryan, MPs of Armenian origin, have also had speeches in Iran Majlis concerning the Armenian Genocide Centennial. “We call on the government and the President Rouhani in particular to call the real facts by their name. That will make it possible to support the security in the region,” Robert Beglaryan said in his speech.

Iran has been conducting a moderate and cautious policy regarding the Armenian Genocide over the last years. Remarkably, though, the MPs of the 6th Majlis of Iran condemned the Armenian Genocide. Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, then President of Iran, visited Tsitsernakaberd during his official visit to Yerevan on September 9, 2004. Vice president of Iran, Hamid Baghaei, pronounced the word ‘genocide’ during the conference ‘Iran: The Bridge of Victory’ in August 2010. “The government of Ottoman Turkey committed genocide in 1915; and a certain number of Armenians fell victim to it,” he said although the statement was refuted not to aggravate the relations with Turkey.

However, both the political and religious elite of Iran, as well as ordinary citizens admit the fact of the Armenian Genocide, as according to the Iranian sources, the Ottoman Turks have not only perpetrated genocide against the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks, but also have slaughtered many Iranians in Urmia Region in 1918.

In Iran there are Armenian Genocide Memorials in Abadan, Ahraz, Arak, Isfahan, Tehran and Urumieh, all of them on Armenian Churches ground. In Abadan the Genocide Memorial was renovated since it was next to the church damaged during the Iran Iraq war.

Other Commemoration events worldwide:
1. Los Angeles Times | Armenian Genocide Anniversary Apr 24, 2015
2. The Huffington Post | Poignant photos from around the world show Armenian Genocide has not been forgotten

Sources: www.hyeli.com, Wikipedia | Armenian Genocide recognitionarmenian-genocide.org | Recognition countries, Mehr News Agency (MNA) 1, MNA 2, IRNA 1, IRNA 2, ISNA 1, Tasnim News Agency, panorama>>am | Asory Genocide, panorama>>am | Rouhani letter, armenian-genocide.org | Genocide Memorials in Iran, uacla.com | Armenian Genocide Memorials, team-aow.discuforum.info | Monuments Commemoratifs du Genocide Armenien

Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province: Saint Stepanos Monastery near Jolfa

The St. Stepanos Monastery (Armenian: Maghardavank) is an Armenian monastery about 15 km northwest of Jolfa, East Azarbaijan Province, northwestern Iran. It is situated in a deep canyon along the Arax river on the Iranian side of the border between Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and Iran. Since 2008 it is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List together with the St. Thaddeus Monastery and the Chapel of Dzordzor.

The general structure mostly resembles Armenian and Georgian architecture and the inside of the building is adorned with beautiful paintings by Honatanian, a renowned Armenian artist. Hayk Ajimian, an Armenian scholar and historian, recorded that the church was originally built in the ninth century AD, but repeated earthquakes in Azarbaijan completely eroded the previous structure. The church was rebuilt during the rule of Shah Abbas the Second.

History
The first monastery was built in the seventh century (AD 649) and completed in the tenth century. However, St Bartholomew first founded a church on the site around AD 62 but it was partly destroyed during the wars between the Seljuks and the Byzantine Empire in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Following the conquest of the region by the Mongols of Hulagu, grandson of Genghis Khan, in the middle of the thirteenth century, Christians benefited from the favorable Ilkhanid dynasty, and a peace agreement is signed between the Armenian Church and the Ilkhans. The monastery was restored in the second half of the thirteenth century.

The monastery was completely rebuilt in 1330 under the leadership of Zachariah. St. Stepanos Monastery found the height of its cultural and intellectual influence in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The monastery produced paintings and illuminated manuscripts, in areas as diverse as religion, history and philosophy.

In the early fifteenth century, the new Safavid dynasty protected the Armenians but the region is at the center of the rivalry between the Safavids and the Ottomans, who invaded Western Armenia in 1513. St. Stepanos in the sixteenth century observed a gradual decline until Shah Abbas I decided to evacuate the region from its inhabitants in 1604. The monastery then was abandoned. From 1650, the Safavids, however, decided to occupy the region again, and the damaged and abandoned St. Stepanos monastery was restored in the middle of the century.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the area became a challenge for the conquest of the Russian Empire. Yerevan was conquered by the Russians in 1827. The border between Persia and Russia was established on the Araxes by the Treaty of Turkmenchay. Consequently part of the population was displaced by force to Russian Armenia. The Qajar rulers continued to protect the Armenians. They encouraged the rebuilding of St. Stepanos Monastery between 1819 and 1825.

The monastery has undergone several restorations recently twentieth and twenty-first centuries, especially since 1974.

On UNESCO World Heritage List
The Armenian monasteries in Northwestern Iran have borne continuous testimony, since the origins of Christianity and certainly since the 7th century, to Armenian culture in its relations and contact with the Persian and later the Iranian civilizations. They bear testimony to a very large and refined panorama of architectural and decorative content associated with Armenian culture, in interaction with other regional cultures: Byzantine, Orthodox, Assyrian, Persian and Muslim. The monasteries have survived some 2,000 years of destruction, both of human origin and as a result of natural disasters. They have been rebuilt several times in a spirit in keeping with Armenian cultural traditions.

Further information: Iran Chamber Society | Church of Saint Stephanos

Sources: Wikipedia | Saint Stepanos MonasteryIran Chamber Society | Historical Churches in Iran, Tishineh | St. Stepanos Monastery, Wikimedia Commons | Saint Stepanos Monastery, UNESCO World Heritage List | Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran, IRNA | Photos 1, IRNA | Photos 2

Kerman holds biggest Zoroastrian Sadeh Festival

The Zoroastrians marked Sadeh, an ancient feast celebrating the creation of fire, in Kerman. Sadeh has been observed since the days when Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion in the powerful Persian empire.

Every year, on January 30th, thousands of Zoroastrians or even the Muslims from all over Iran as well as other countries gather in Kerman, the city with the greatest Zoroastrian population, to celebrate the religious feast of Jashn-e Sadeh by burning firewood in an open space to signify the coming of spring and to defeat the forces of darkness, frost and cold.

Sadeh celebrates 50 days before Nowrouz, the Persian New Year. Sadeh (meaning ‘hundred’ in Persian) is a mid-winter festival that refers to one hundred days and nights past the end of summer.

Mohammad Ali Golabzadeh, researcher and expert on Kerman, told Mehr News that the ceremony is still celebrated like the ancient times in Kerman, Yazd, and some other Iranian cities.

“Although Sadeh is attributed to Zoroastrians, the ceremony itself has its roots in Kerman’s rituals and even the Muslims participate in it,” he said, adding that for the majority of Iranians Sadeh had no religious significance and everyone gathered to have a good time and celebrate the precious things God has granted humanity.

Source: Payvand News of Iran

Photo gallery: Armenian Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on 6th of January in Isfahan, Iran

Some Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Years’ on Jan. 1, while Armenians celebrate Christmas at the same time as the Epiphany on Jan. 6.

More content on Iranian Christians on this blog: The other Iran | Christians

Sources: Mehr News Agency | Photos, Al-Monitor: the pulse of the Middle East | Iran’s Christians celebrate Christmas

Photo gallery: Christmas 2014 in Iran – Christmas shopping part 3

Some Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Years’ on Jan. 1, while Armenians celebrate Christmas at the same time as the Epiphany on Jan. 6.

 

 

More content on Iranian Christians on this blog: https://theotheriran.com/tag/christians/

Sources: MEHR, IRNA

Iran’s Christians celebrate Christmas (Text & Photos)

As Christians around the world celebrate Christmas, the holiday season is also observed in Iran, a predominantly Muslim nation where Christians make up less than 1% of the country’s approximate population of 77.5 million.

Christmas trees decorated with red, green and gold gift boxes placed behind shop windows or at the entrances of different shopping malls and hotels can be seen, especially in the Christian neighborhoods of Tehran.

Decorated trees, along with Nativity scenes of the Virgin Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, can also be seen in shops along Mirza Shirazi Avenue and Ostaad Nejatollahi (Villa Avenue) and its surrounding neighborhoods in central Tehran, where many Iranian Christians reside.

Shermin, an Iranian Christian, told Al-Monitor, “Like other Christians in the world, we celebrate Christmas at home along with our family and friends, exchange gifts and party.” She added, “There are a lot of good things to eat at this joyful time of the year.”

Some Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Years’ on Jan. 1, while Armenians celebrate Christmas at the same time as the Epiphany on Jan. 6.

Despite being a minority, Iran’s Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians are recognized as established religious minorities and are represented in parliament, and also enjoy freedom to practice their religions and perform their religious rituals.

“You can’t celebrate Christmas in any Islamic country the way we do in Iran,” Rafi Moradians, an Iranian Armenian in Tehran, told Al-Monitor. Referring to the community’s exclusive sport and cultural club, Rafi said, “Authorities don’t impose any restrictions on us. We attend church services and there are also special celebrations at the Ararat Club.”

The festive mood, however, is not just limited to the Christian neighborhoods of Tehran, as some shops, especially those in the northern parts of the city, dedicate at least some section of their shop windows to decorations such as candy canes, snow globes and Santa Claus figures.

In recent years, municipal authorities have also put up banners celebrating the birth of Jesus on many main streets and at the St. Sarkis Armenian Church on Villa Avenue, where a service is held every year.

Unlike other countries in the region where public celebration of Christmas is limited to hotels frequented by foreigners, there is no such restriction in Tehran. The sale of Christmas ornaments, which during the first years of the Islamic Revolution was limited to Christian districts, can now be seen around town.

In fact, festive Christmas decoration and celebration take place throughout the country, specifically in major cities such as Esfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz and even religious cities such as Mashhad.

Over the past decade, celebrating Christmas has become increasingly popular among young Iranians, regardless of their religion. Of course, the trend has a partly religious basis, as Muslims acknowledge the birth of Jesus Christ and recognize him as one of God’s holy messengers. But another reason for taking part in Christmas celebrations seems to be rooted in the Iranian youth’s desire to “keep up with the rest of the world.”

“I get so excited when I see shops decorated with Christmas trees. It gives me the same good feeling and joy that I get during the Persian New Year, Nowruz,” Venus, a Muslim student who studies Iranian art at one of Tehran’s universities, told Al-Monitor.

Ordinary Iranians are not alone in the holiday celebrations and in exchanging greetings at Christmas time. This year, President Hassan Rouhani sent season’s greetings to Pope Francis and world leaders. Through his Twitter account, Rouhani reached out to ordinary Christians around the globe, as well as those in Iran.

“May Jesus Christ, the prophet of peace and love, bless us all on this day. Wishing Merry #Christmas to those celebrating, esp #Iranian Christians,” he tweeted.

Also, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif used his 100th tweet to express hope for a more peaceful 2015.

The Twitter account belonging to the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also featured a series of messages on the occasion of Christmas. One of the messages read: “It’s time for all caring Muslims, Christians & Jews to obey the prophets & truly honor #Jesus’ birthday by standing up against Israeli crimes.”

Covering Christmas and New Year’s events has also become routine for Iranian media in the past decade. For instance, the state news agency IRNA published a photo report of celebrations across the world this year. A similar photo report was published by the conservative Tasnim news agency and videos of Christmas celebrations around the globe were broadcast on state TV channels.

“As an Armenian, I’ve never felt any discrimination and I’ve been treated just as other Iranians,” said Rafi, who is a Western-educated Armenian and has worked in various government organizations, including as a senior adviser in one of Iran’s ministries.

“If I had any problems living as an Armenian in Iran, I would have left the country a long time ago,” he told Al-Monitor.

This year’s Christmas coincided with a mourning period for Muslims, Shiites in particular. But Iranian Christians say they have not encountered any restrictions on their celebration of Christmas or their preparations for the New Year.

Source: AL-Monitor, MEHR, IRNA

Photo gallery: Christmas 2014 in Iran – Christmas Shopping, Part 2

Many shops in Tehran are displaying colorful Christmas decorations and ornaments welcoming the Christians who are busy shopping ahead of the the Armenian Christmas on January 6.

Although a minority religious group in Iran, Christians of Iran are free to practice their religion and perform their religious rituals.

 

Source: http://www.payvand.com/news/14/dec/1166.html

Christmas 2014 in Iran – Christmas Shopping, Part 1 can be found here: https://theotheriran.com/2014/12/25/photo-gallery-christmas-2014-in-iran-christmas-shopping/

Another good read on Iranian Christians is available here: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/12/iran-christians-armenians-christmas-rouhani.html##ixzz3NFNpgGCg

Jewish Lexicographer Soleiman Hayyim commemorated in Tehran, Iran

Persian literary monthly Bokhara paid tribute to Iranian Jewish lexicographer and translator, Soleiman HayyimThe Persian literary monthly Bokhara paid tribute to Iranian Jewish lexicographer and translator, Soleiman Hayyim (1887-1970) at the Mahmud Afshar Foundation on Sunday.

A number of literati including Managing Director of Bokhara Ali Dehbashi, the director of the Academy of Persian Language and Literature Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, and Department of Islamic Sciences of the Academy of Sciences of Iran Director Mostafa Mohaqqeq-Damad attended the ceremony, the Persian service of MNA reported on Monday.

Hayyim had studied at an American college and his English was good so he worked as a translator in the then ministry of finance, Dehbashi said.

It was during those years he felt a great need for an English-Persian bilingual dictionary, upon which he usually spent 8 hours a day, he added.

“Hayyim was expert in finding Persian synonyms for English words and phrases, and he was highly interested in Persian literature,” Dehbashi said.

His two-volume dictionaries especially the English-Persian one has been the first bilingual dictionary over the past years and has always been a good model for the future lexicographers, he stated.

Mostafa Mohaqqeq-Damad also gave a brief explanation about Hayyim and his works and efforts in compiling the dictionary.

Iranian Jewish Rabbi Younes Hamami Lalehzar who was also present at the ceremony talked about the recently-published Hayyim Persian-Hebrew Dictionary, which was introduced at the end of the ceremony, and said, “Hayyim had prepared the preliminaries for the dictionary and his manuscripts are still available.”

It took about 12 years to complete the dictionary, he added.

Lexicographer Mohammadreza Bateni, also attending the ceremony, said that almost all the dictionaries by Hayyim have been re-edited and refreshed.

The ceremony was brought to an end by unveiling the Hayyim Persian-Hebrew Dictionary.

Source: Payvand News of Iran

 

Photo gallery: Christmas 2014 in Iran – Armenian Christmas Food

Every holiday has its own traditional food, in Iran or anywhere else in the world. Iranian Christians, including Armenians, celebrate Christmas and the Christian new year with special dishes, pastries and drinks.

Many Iranians are under the impression that Iranian Armenians, like many other Christians in the world — and especially Americans — celebrate the new year, Christmas and Easter by feasting on turkey. In fact, turkey is as  popular among Armenians as it is among other Iranians in general.

So what is an Armenian Christmas dinner like? The Iranian calendar year starts with the spring equinox, on March 20 or 21, and Iranians celebrate with a dish of herb rice and fish. As it happens, this dish is also a staple of the Armenian Christmas dinner in Iran.

But the Armenian Christmas table has other dishes as well. A key part of the meal is vegetable kuku, an Iranian dish consisting of eggs, vegetables, herbs and sometimes nuts and dried berries. If you ask an Armenian where this tradition comes from the answer is more often than not “I don’t know”.

“On their Christmas eve, Iranian Armenians often dine on rice, fish and vegetable kuku,” writes the Iranian Armenian writer and documentary filmmaker Robert Safarian. “Since childhood we thought that this was a Christmas tradition until the borders to Armenia opened and we learned that there is no dish in Armenia called vegetable kuku. It is an Iranian dish that  has become an Armenian tradition.”

Armenian Christmas pastries follow a tradition too. The two most well known and popular ones are perok (or pirok) marmalade cake and gata pastry. In the past, these two dishes were only popular among Armenians but now they are among the highest-selling pastries in Tehran confectionaries.

Coins of Fortune

Gata varies in its ingredients, size and in how it is decorated, depending on the region or the cook’s preferences. It consists of layers of dough with alternating layers of butter or margarine. Ingredients include flour, sugar, butter, eggs, yeast, milk and salt. Sometimes rosewater or spices such as cardamom are added, though they are not part of the standard recipe. After about an hour in the oven, the layers rise and the final gata takes shape.

One of the most popular variations of gata is made with nuts, especially walnuts. Sometimes a coin is hidden at the center of the gata and the belief is that fortune will smile on whoever finds the coin in her or his gata.

Gata is generally known as a sweet pastry but a salty version is popular too; many Armenian households prepare them for Christmas or the new year.

Perok, the other favorite holiday pastry, is made from a dough very similar to that used to make pie. Its center consists of marmalade; variations in perok are defined by the type of marmalade used.

The ingredients for perok are: pastry flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, vanilla, grated orange peel, grated walnut, and marmalade. First you mix the butter and sugar, then add eggs one by one as you continue to mix. Then mix flour, baking powder, vanilla, grated orange peel and walnuts together in a separate bowl. For the third step, pour the contents of the bowl into a mixer. After a short while, turn the mixer off and continue to combine the ingredients by hand. Put about one-fourth of the dough aside and place the rest in a Pyrex dish and cover it with marmalade.

Cut the dough you have put aside into narrow ribbons and place them on the marmalade surface, making an “X” pattern. Put into an oven pre-heated to about 175 degrees centigrade and bake for about 40 minutes, or when the perok is golden.

Do-It-Yourself Wine

Like many Christians in the world, cookies and chocolates shaped like Christmas trees, Santa Claus or other symbols of the holiday are popular with Armenians. Families put them under Christmas trees and give them to children as treats and gifts.

You must add coffee and wine to this feast — they have a religious significance for all Christians. Under the Islamic Republic of Iran, trade in alcoholic beverages is forbidden, so the Armenian community makes its own wine and other alcoholic drinks. The law allows religious minorities to make wine for religious purposes.

One last point. The Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 6, so after the new year. As to why, well, that is another story, as they say.

This article was originally published in IranWire

Photo gallery: Christmas 2014 in Iran – Christmas Shopping

Mirza Shirazi Avenue, formerly known as Nader Shah, is located in one of the main Armenian neighborhoods in Tehran. At the moment, the avenue is decorated for Christmas and the approaching new year. Shop windows display Santa Claus dolls and the sidewalks are filled with pine trees, which will decorate the homes of Iranian Christians.

But Christmas is not only visible in this central Tehran street. It is also being celebrated in the east Tehran neighborhood of Majidieh, where many residents are preparing for Christmas and the new year period, now just a few days away.

Every year, starting in late November, shops in the two streets are decorated with gifts, pine trees, Santa Claus dolls and other seasonal items —  and shoppers are ready.

Pictures of Christmas Season in different Iranian cities. Click the photos to open them in enlarged gallery mode:

“From the first day of Azar (November 22), we get ready and make sure we have the merchandise,” says K., a shopkeeper on Mirza Shirazi Avenue. […] “The shoppers are not only Armenians and Christians. Many Muslims buy pine trees, Santa Clauses and other Christmas items and celebrate the holidays,” he explains. “They say it is a joyous and beautiful celebration. I don’t find it unusual, because Armenians celebrate the Iranian new year and participate in some Muslim religious ceremonies as well.” […]

“If you have an Armenian friend, remember not to call him on December 25, when all the radios and TVs and newspapers talk about Christmas and congratulate Christians on the birth of Jesus,” wrote the Armenian writer and documentary filmmaker Robert Safarian on his blog a few years ago. “The Armenian Christmas is on January 6, when probably nobody calls anyone to celebrate the holiday.”

“On their Christmas Eve, Iranian Armenians often dine on rice, fish and vegetable kuku (an Iranian dish made with whipped eggs, vegetables and herbs),” wrote Safarian. “Since childhood, we thought that this was a Christmas tradition until the borders to Armenia were opened and we learned that there is no dish in Armenia called vegetable kuku. It is an Iranian dish that has become an Armenian tradition.”

Because religious occasions in Iran are observed according to the Islamic lunar calendar, this year’s Christmas coincides with a mourning period for Muslims, and Shias in particular. But Iranian Christians have not encountered any restrictions in their preparations for Christmas and the new year. It continues to be a celebration that manifests itself in color and light in a few streets in the center of the Iranian capital.
This text is part of an article published on IranWire

Sources
DeutscheWelle
IranWire

Memorial honoring Jewish heroes of Iraq-Iran war unveiled in Tehran, Iran

Earlier this week, authorities in Tehran unveiled a monument to slain Iranian Jewish soldiers who died during the country’s long and bitter war with Iraq between 1980 and 1988. Death tolls for the hideous conflict differ, but casualty counts usually reach more than 1 million for both countries.

A public ceremony marked the memorial’s opening on Monday, with speeches that took place at a dais flanked by the Iranian flag and a menorah. Banners showed the images of fallen soldiers, hailed as “martyrs” in Farsi and Hebrew inscriptions.

[…]

After Israel, Iran has the Middle East’s second-largest community of Jews — with its current population estimated between 20,000 and 30,000.

“We are not tenants in this country. We are Iranians, and we have been for 30 centuries,” Ciamak Morsadegh, the Iranian Jewish parliamentarian, told Washington Post reporter Rezaian last year.

“There is a distinction between us as Jews and Israel,” added a shopkeeper in the historic city of Isfahan. “We consider ourselves Iranian Jews, and it has nothing to do with Israel whatsoever. This is the country we love.”

Sources:
Washington Post
IRNA

Iran hosts retrospective on Christian Iranian composer Loris Tjeknavorian’s music arts

A number of Iran’s leading music artists and cineastes attended the opening gala held on Oct. 9. […] Tjeknavorian was also honored with the lifetime achievement award during the gala.

Tjeknavorian has made nearly 100 recordings and written more than 75 compositions, including symphonies, operas, requiems, chamber music, ballet music, concertos, choral works and an oratorio.

He has conducted international orchestras throughout the world in numerous countries including Austria, the UK, the US, Canada, Hungary, Finland, the former USSR, Armenia, Thailand, Hong Kong, South Africa, and Denmark. […] The literary opera, Rostam and Sohrab and the requiem Departed and the Survived are among his best-known works.

Tjeknavorian has received numerous international awards such as Austria’s Cross of Honor for Science and Art First Class.

More info: http://iranianroots.com/2014/06/07/christian-composer-and-coductor-loris-tjeknavorian-one-of-the-most-celebrated-cultural-figures-in-iran/

Video: Face to Face – Iran music maestro Loris Tjeknavorian talks to PressTV (1 and 2)

Source: http://www.payvand.com/news/14/oct/1069.html

Tomb of Hebrew prophet Daniel in Susa, Iran

The Book of Daniel mentions that Daniel lived in Babylon and may have visited the palace of Susa‌, Iran, but the place where he died is not specified; the tradition preserved among the Jews and Arabs is that he was buried in Susa. Today the Tomb of Daniel in Susa is a popular attraction among local Muslims and Iran’s Jewish community alike.

Susa, Iran - Tomb of Daniel at night

Susa, Iran – Tomb of Daniel at night

Source: wikipedia

UNHCR Praises Iran for Supporting Foreign Refugees

Head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)‘s Office in Tehran Sivanka Dhanapala praised Iran’s performance in hosting and aiding foreign refugees, specially the Afghans. Dhanapala announced on Thursday that Iran has been successful in hosting the highest number of refugees in the world, and praised the country’s contribution to the promotion of refugees’ welfare and upgrading their educational level.

Afghan refugee boys in Iran (source: UNHCR)

Afghan refugee boys in Iran (source: UNHCR)

The literacy rate of the Afghan refugees that stood at six percent upon arrival in Iran, dramatically rose to 60 percent in 2013, he said, adding that this is an indication of Iran’s success in that regard.

“No host country can gain such an achievement,” Dhanapala said.

Praising Iran’s hospitality, he said, along with Lebanon and Pakistan, Iran has been the major refugee hosting country around the world.

Iran has been a generous host for more than 2 million Afghan refugees for two decades, with little help from the international community.

http://www.payvand.com/news/14/jun/1197.html

Andranik Teymourian – Christian captain of Iran’s national team and national hero

Andranik Teymourian.jpg

Andranik Timotian-Samarani, known as Andranik “Ando” Teymourian, born March 6, 1983 in Tehran, Iran to ethnic Armenian parents. […]

Teymourian is an Iranian footballer who currently plays for Esteghlal in the Iran Pro League. He usually plays as a defensive midfielder, but can also play as a wide midfielder. From 2006 to 2010, he played for three clubs in England, including Bolton and Fulham in the Premier League.

He started to be recognized as a national hero in Iran because of the passion he showed for his country in the 2006 World Cup. […]

Teymourian played his first match for Iran in 2005, and has featured in the Iranian squad for the 2006 and 2014 World Cups, and also the 2007 and 2011 Asian Cups. He is notably the first Christian to captain the Iranian national team. Ref: Wikipedia

Christian Composer and Coductor Loris Tjeknavorian – one of the most celebrated cultural figures in Iran

Remarkable people with Iranian roots

Loris Tjeknavorian (also spelled Cheknavarian, Armenian: Լորիս Ճգնավորյան; Persian: لوریس چکناواریان‎, born 13 October 1937) is an Iraniancomposer and conductor. He is one of the most celebrated cultural figures in Armenia and Iran.

As a composer Tjeknavorian has written 6 operas, 5 symphonies, choral works (among them God is love, The Life of Christ, the oratorio Book of Revelation, and a requiem), chamber music, ballet music, piano and vocal works, concerti for piano, violin, guitar, cello and pipa (Chinese lute), as well as music for documentary and feature films.

Born in Borujerd, Iran in 1937 to immigrant Armenian parents, …
Following this fruitful period of education, Tjeknavorian went back to Iran in 1961, where he taught music theory at the Tehran Conservatory of Music. At the same time, he was appointed director of Tehran’s Music Archives and put in charge of…

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Photos: Vank Cathedral in Isfahan

Following the Ottoman war of 1603-1605, Armenians began to arrive in Iran in search of a new life under the Safavid King Shah Abbas I.

Shah Abbas I, who settled tens of thousands of them in the Iranian provinces south of Aras River, also relocated Armenians, who had fled from the Ottoman massacre in Nakhchivan to Iran. […]

The Armenian immigrants settled in Isfahan and populated the city’s New Jolfa district, which was named after their original homeland in today’s Azerbaijan Republic. […]

One of the largest and most beautiful churches of Iran, the cathedral was completed in 1664. It includes a bell-tower, built in 1702, a printing press, founded by Bishop Khachatoor, a library established in 1884, and a museum opened in 1905.  […]

Built in 1871, the museum contains numerous objects related to the history of the cathedral and the Armenian community of Isfahan, including the 1606 edict of Shah Abbas I establishing New Jolfa and prohibiting interference with, or the persecution of, Armenians and their property and affairs in the district. […]

The Vank museum also houses an extensive collection of photographs, maps, and Turkish documents related to the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman kings.

Posts about Christians in Iran: The other Iran | Christians

 

Read the full article at: Payvand News of Iran | Wonders of Iran: Vank Cathedral

Isfahan – Iran’s ethnical diverse Mosaic City host of multiple world heritage sites

A mere hour’s flight south from Tehran, a visit to Isfahan could alone justify a trip to Iran.

It is hard to say whether the city’s immense charm lies in its aquamarine-tiled mosques and elegant gardens and palaces; in its location at the foot of the snow-capped Zagros mountains and along the curve of the Zayandeh river with its fairytale arched bridges; in its unique, majestic urban plaza and its evocative bazaar; or, year-round clear blue skies. Winters here are crisp and cool, summers sizzling, and spring balmy.

Undoubtedly the most elegant city in Iran, Esfahan was the Persian capital for a hundred-year period from 1588, when it flourished under the rule of the arts-loving despot Shah Abbas I. Traditionally a crossroads for international trade and diplomacy, the city has never ceased to wow visitors.

However, Esfahan is more than a living, breathing work of art: it is an industrial supremo, a modern, cosmopolitan city, with a population of over 1.5 million. Ethnically diverse – the Christian and Jewish minority live alongside the Muslims in peace – the streets are alive with the irrepressible vitality of its youthful residents. Whether you strike up a conversation with a local, lose yourself in the winding alleys of the old quarter or relax in one of the city’s cosy teahouses, you too will fall under Esfahan’s spell.

What to do First stop has to be Naqsh-e Jahan Square, in the centre of town. Begun in 1602 and originally used as a polo ground, it’s one of the world’s largest – beating Russia’s Red Square – and is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

The grassy fountain-filled courtyard is the perfect spot for people-watching, a picnic or simply soaking up the splendid monuments that surround it, such as the massive Imam Mosque complex. Adjacent to the Imam Mosque is the more intimate Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque – its intricately tiled dome never fails to mesmerise visitors.

https://i0.wp.com/persepolis.free.fr/iran/history/images/aliqapu.jpg

Ali Qapu Palace, Isfahan, Fars Province

Opposite it, is the Ali Qapu Palace, one time roost of the Safavid rulers, and at the far end is the entrance to the Grand Bazaar. It, like the covered arcade that runs around the square, is your best bet for booty: miniature paintings, decorative tiles, enamel vases and plates, jewellery, carpets, clothes and accessories – from colourful scarves, to fake designer handbags, rupushes, a type of long coat, and hijabs – as well as nuts and sweets. The city is famous for gaz, a type of nougat.

Chehel Sotoon

Chehel Sotun, Isfahan, Fars Province

Drag yourself away, if you can for another opportunity to savour high Persian culture in the form of Chehel Sotun Palace, with its mirror work, pillared hall and landscaped gardens, now filled with gaggles of friendly students. Conveniently, it’s also in the vicinity of the Museum of Contemporary Art, which exhibits works by both local and international artists.

Don’t forget to check out Jolfa, the Armenian quarter, south of the Zayandeh River. It’s dotted with churches, including Vank Cathedral which is famous for its striking religious tableaux. Whatever you do, be sure to take a sunset stroll along the banks of the river to the striking Khaju Bridge, a discreet haunt for courting couples.

khawju bridge isfahan1

Khaju Bridge, Isfahan, Fars Province

Blog recommendation: American woman backpacking in Iran

Read the blog and enjoy Silvia’s descriptions and pictures. Here are the links to the posts on Iran:

http://www.heartmybackpack.com/blog/backpacking-solo-through-iran/

http://www.heartmybackpack.com/blog/kafka-cigarettes-tehran/

http://www.heartmybackpack.com/blog/isfahan-iran/

If you are lazy just read some quotes here and go to the links to enjoy the pictures:

“I mean, Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, hosts thirteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and boasts beautiful landscapes stretching from dense rain forests to snowcapped mountains to desert basins. Plus, so many travelers whom I met in Central Asia absolutely raved about Iran. The hospitable people, delicious food and historic sites – how could I not add Iran to my travel itinerary?”

“My first Couchsurfing hosts in Tehran, a young Ph.D. student and her roommate, said they were so excited to be hosting an American girl, and that they hope more tourists will start to come to Iran. They were incredibly warm and welcoming hosts, cooking delicious Persian food and asking me countless questions about Norway and the U.S. and foreigners’ impressions of Iran.”

“The thing is, I haven’t felt alone once since I landed in Iran. The receptionist at my first hotel took me in as her daughter, accompanying me to breakfast and lunch and suggesting sites for me to visit, my Couchsurfing hosts were like cool older sisters, chatting with me about religion and politics as well as the plot twists of Lost and J-Lo’s divorce (I’m so out of touch), and Rana truly has adopted me as her sister, with an invitation to lunch turning into a trip to visit Esfahan and then several days with her family in Tehran.”

“So far my experience in Iran has only been one of warmth and hospitality, and really, really amazing food! Though, in a few hours Rana and I are heading to Marivan, a small Kurdish city on the border to Iraq. So you know, maybe I’ll have some more eventful things to share from there! (Kidding, family, Kurdistan is of course totally safe.)”

“My stay in Tehran was far too short and left much of the city unexplored, but I did leave with an overwhelming crush on a city so full of life and passion. Shopkeepers greeted me with warmth (if also a degree of surprise), and the discussions I had with people there were always filled with genuine interest and reflection. ”

“While now a bustling modern city, Isfahan was once one of the largest cities in the world as it sat on a major intersection of the main north-south and east-west  routes crossing Iran. We seemed to stumble on reminders of Isfahan’s past glory around every corner, from impressive squares and tree-lined boulevards to covered bridges, palaces and mosques.”

“Moreover, while Isfahan might be dominated by Islamic architecture, the city is also home to important Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian sites. Rana and I visited the Church of Saint Joseph of Arimathea, built by an Armenian community that settled in Isfahan in the early 1600s.”

Ok if you read so far, just make sure to visit the links above

 

BBC: Iran’s proud Jews – “anti-Semitism is a European phenomenon”

Although Iran and Israel are bitter enemies, few know that Iran is home to the largest number of Jews anywhere in the Middle East outside Israel.

About 25,000 Jews live in Iran and most are determined to remain no matter what the pressures – as proud of their Iranian culture as of their Jewish roots. […]

It is dawn in the Yusufabad synagogue in Tehran and Iranian Jews bring out the Torah and read the ancient text before making their way to work. It is not a sight you would expect in a revolutionary Islamic state, but there are synagogues dotted all over Iran where Jews discreetly practise their religion.

“Because of our long history here we are tolerated,” says Jewish community leader Unees Hammami, who organised the prayers. He says the father of Iran’s revolution, Imam Khomeini, recognised Jews as a religious minority that should be protected. As a result Jews have one representative in the Iranian parliament.

“Imam Khomeini made a distinction between Jews and Zionists and he supported us,” says Mr Hammami. […]

In the Yusufabad synagogue the announcements are made in Persian – most Iranian Jews don’t really speak Hebrew well.

Jews have lived in Persia for nearly 3,000 years – the descendants of slaves from Babylon saved by Cyrus the Great. […]

It is one of only four Jewish charity hospitals worldwide and is funded with money from the Jewish diaspora – something remarkable in Iran where even local aid organisations have difficulty receiving funds from abroad for fear of being accused of being foreign agents.

Most of the patients and staff are Muslim these days, but director Ciamak Morsathegh is Jewish.

“Anti-Semitism is not an eastern phenomenon, it’s not an Islamic or Iranian phenomenon – anti-Semitism is a European phenomenon,” he says, arguing that Jews in Iran even in their worst days never suffered as much as they did in Europe. […]

In one of Tehran’s six remaining kosher butcher’s shops, everyone has relatives in Israel. […]

In between chopping up meat, butcher Hersel Gabriel tells me how he expected problems when he came back from Israel, but in fact the immigration officer didn’t say anything to him. […]

“Whatever they say abroad is lies – we are comfortable in Iran – if you’re not political and don’t bother them then they won’t bother you,” he explains. […]

His customer, middle-aged housewife Giti agrees, saying she can easily talk to her two sons in Tel Aviv on the telephone and visit them. […]

“In the last five years the government has allowed Iranian Jews to go to Israel freely, meet their families and when they come back they face no problems,” says Mr Mohtamed. […]

The exodus of Jews from Iran seems to have slowed down – the first wave was in the 1950s and the second was in the wake of the Iranian Revolution.

Those Jews who remain in Iran seem to have made a conscious decision to stay put.

“We are Iranian and we have been living in Iran for more than 3,000 years,” says the Jewish hospital director Ciamak Morsathegh.

Source: BBC News

Ararat Armenian Sports Club and it’s stars

The Vanak neighborhood of central Tehran is home to a high concentration of Armenians; half of the approximately 80,000 Armenians in Iran live in Tehran, and most of those Tehrani Armenians live within Vanak and its orbit. […]

The Ararat Armenian Sports Club predates the Revolution and predates Reza Shah Pahlavi. […] The Sports Club is home to FC Ararat Tehran, a borderline-defunct soccer club that produced two heroes of Iranians, Armenians, and of course Armenian-Iranians. Andranik Eskandarian played for two years at Ararat before moving onto Taj (now Esteghlal due to yet another Revolution-necessitated makeover) as a stalwart defender. His national teams won the 1968, ‘72, and ‘76 and went to the country’s first World Cup in 1978. Andranik would later move to the United States to play for a legendary New York Cosmos side. A generation later, Andranik Teymourian would play youth ball for Ararat before moving on to Bolton in the English Premier League.

Teymourian collapes after Iran’s game against AngolaOne of the most iconic images from the 2006 World Cup

Someone like Teymourian can be a hero for Iranians of all religions without a hint of conflict.

The situation of Armenians (and other Christians) in Iran is of course far more normal than prevailing Western discourse may have an outside observer understand. Armenians have different treatment from most Iranians, with special privileges to consume pork, alcohol, and having Sundays off work that Muslims do not enjoy. But they are still effusively Iranian. Surp Khatch, for example, was built in part to memorialize the thousands of Armenian service members killed in the Iran-Iraq War. When Teymourian crosses himself before a match, his countrymen cheer this act as the mark of a pious Iranian. […]

Unfortunately, these days Ararat FC is far from its glory days. The team last competed in Iran’s top league in the 1995-1996 season.

Source: Ajam Media Collective (ajammc.com)

Vigen or Viguen: popular Armenian-Iranian artist

Vigen.jpg

Vigen, born Vigen Derderian (November 23, 1929 – October 26, 2003), known as “Sultan of Pop” and “Sultan of Persian jazz”, was an immensely popular Iranian pop music singer and actor, well known throughout the Near East.

Vigen’s innovative and upbeat style of music had a great influence on paving the way for a new genre of Iranian music, influenced by Western European and Latin American styles.

Among his notable songs are Chera nemiraghsi? (Why you are not dancing?), Mahtab (Moonlight), Lala’ee (Lullaby), and Zane Irooni take (Iranian woman is unique). Ref: Wikipedia

About famous Armenian churches in Iran and Armenian Iranians in general

One of the finest examples of Iranian architecture in the neighborhood of Vanak is an Armenian chapel, Surp Khatch. Surp Khatch Chapel holds a peculiar significance within Armenian-Iranian life.

There are dozens of Armenian churches within Iran, mostly in Tehran and the western provinces. Vank in New Julfa deserves special recognition, of course, for its role as the heart of the Isfahani community, brought to Persia by Shah Abbas I in the 17th century.

The Prelacy – the bureaucratic head of the Armenian Church in Iran – makes its home in Saint Sarkis, a church that dates back to 1970.

Armenian-Iranian architecture, particularly Surp Khatch, fits comfortably within the Iranian modernist idiom. The situation of Armenians (and other Christians) in Iran is of course far more normal than prevailing Western discourse may have an outside observer understand. Armenians have different treatment from most Iranians, with special privileges to consume pork, alcohol, and having Sundays off that Muslims do not enjoy. But they are still effusively Iranian. Surp Khatch, for example, was built in part to memorialize the thousands of Armenian service members killed in the Iran-Iraq War. When Teymourian (popular Armenian Iranian football star) crosses himself before a match, his countrymen cheer this act as the mark of a pious Iranian.

The negotiating of political space for religious minorities in an explicitly Islamic Republic is an ongoing political issue that is going strong on its fourth decade. But political concerns hardly frame daily life; Armenians and other religious minorities in Iran generally name their primary concerns as drug use and a rapidly deteriorating economy. The communities’ problems aren’t necessarily their status as minorities, but the general problems that stem from being Iranian. Indeed, minorities in Iran are well-integrated not only socially and culturally but politically as well. There are five Armenians in Parliament (compared to four Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, three Jews, and two Zoroastrians in the 290-seat Majlis). There are also Armenian observers to the Expediency Council and the Guardian Council.

Source: Ajam Media Collective | Towards an Armenian-Iranian Modern: Tehran Church Architecture & Post-Revolutionary Soccer Culture

Armenians of Tehran Celebrate Vardavar

Visit this great blog to learn more about Armenians and Armenian Iranians in particular. The blog has lots of nice photos and posts.

Hayaxk (ՀԱՅԱՑՔ)

07_07_2013_vardavar

Vartavar (also known as Vardevar or Vardavar) is an Armenian festival, where people of all ages drench each other with water.

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Marcos Grigorian – Armenian-Iranian artist and a pioneer of Iranian modern art


Marcos Grigorian (December 5, 1925 – August 27, 2007) was a notable Iranian-Armenian artist and a pioneer of Iranian modern art. In 1975 Grigorian helped organize the group of free painters and sculptors in Tehran and was one of its founder members. Artists Gholamhossein Nami, Massoud Arabshahi, Morteza Momayez and Faramarz Pilaram were amongst the other members of the group.

Grigorian was a trend setter in experimenting with Earth Art, in Iran. Some of his works are now on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kerman, and the National Gallery of Armenia. Ref. Wikipedia, iranicaonline.org