Iraq’s Hot New Religion: Zoroastrian

One of the smallest and oldest religions in the world is experiencing a revival in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The religion has deep Kurdish roots—it was founded by Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra, who was born in the Kurdish part of Iran 3,500 years ago, and the religion’s sacred book, the Avesta, was written in an ancient language from which the Kurdish language derives.

In this century, however, it is estimated that there are only around 190,000 believers in the world. After Islam became the dominant religion in the region during the 7th century, Zoroastrianism more or less disappeared.

Until—quite possibly—now.

For the first time in over a thousand years, locals in a rural part of Sulaymaniyah province conducted an ancient ceremony on May 1, whereby followers put on a special belt that signifies they are ready to serve the religion and observe its tenets. It would be akin to a baptism in the Christian faith.

The newly pledged Zoroastrians have said that they will organize similar ceremonies elsewhere in Iraqi Kurdistan and they have also asked permission to build up to 12 temples inside the region, which has its own borders, military, and Parliament.

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