Monthly Archives: July 2017

Looking for Soonamai

I live in Karachi and there is a friend of mine who is looking for Soonamai daughter of ruatomjee who was a principal at some institute.   My friend says soonamai studied at Karachi university in the 70’s with her mum talat wizarat.   After that soonamai got married and went to the USA – not sure where.  The family still kept in touch with her dad and then I don’t know if the dad passed away or they stopped meeting.  Soonamai by the way used to live in Saddar.
If there is any contact please let me know on
Many thanks
Arnaz Framji <>

“Why I risked my life to convert to Zoroastrianism”

As the oppressive influence of Isis spreads, women in Iraqi Kurdistan are risking their lives to convert to an ancient religion that preaches gender equality. Corinne Redfern spends a week with the Zoroastrians

Some days, when Duya Ahmed Gadir wakes up, she lies in bed a little longer than usual. Against the buzz of an air conditioning pump outside her window, the 27-year-old whispers a quiet mantra – a promise to think good thoughts, say good words and complete good deeds. She doesn’t do it every day – most of the time she oversleeps; tumbling out of her room, gulping down a cup of sweetened tea and flying out the door to the library to while away her day studying English as a hobby. But when she does remember, it calms her. As a Zoroastrian, this three-pillared promise is her only prayer.

“I was raised Muslim, but I converted to Zoroastrianism last year,” Duya explains, sitting cross-legged on a mattress in jeans and scuffed platform sandals at her home in Kalar, a small city in the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan, three hours north of Baghdad.

“I could see how Isis were acting in the name of ‘Islam’. For three years, they’ve been violently imposing extremist, conservative laws. They’re marrying girls as young as 10, forcing women to cover their hands and faces and killing or raping everyone who gets in their way. Three million people are homeless because of them. I didn’t want anything to do with their version of Islam any more.”

“As a woman, you’re treated like an animal”: Duya Ahmed Gadir, photographed for Stylist by Francesco Brembati.

As Duya herself accepts, her country’s chequered history and current social and economic turmoil has led to an interpretation of Islam that the majority of Muslims wouldn’t recognise as being true to what they practice – a result of overzealous leaders using religion in the wrong way. On a global level, this misrepresentation is part of the reason the hashtag #notinmyname has become so prevalent worldwide.

Nevertheless, Duya is one of more than 100 Kurdish women who have risked their lives to officially convert to Zoroastrianism over the past 18 months, after reading about the inherently feminist, liberal religion on Facebook.

She tracked down Kurdistan’s only official ‘Atashgah’ (the Zoroastrian centre of worship) in the city of Sulaymaniyah, 85 miles to the north. Once there, it seemed like a semi-utopia, to be suddenly surrounded by women of all ages and backgrounds, wearing long, traditional dresses teamed with bright, spiked heels.

“Anyone is welcome here,” explains the religion’s female spiritual leader, Peerq Ashna Abdulqadr Raza, 47. “It’s a place where women can do and say what they want. There aren’t many places like that in this country.”

Peerq Ashna Abdulqadr Raza, Zoroastrianism’s female spiritual leader.

In search of equality

While local theologists are noting a sudden surge in Zoroastrianism’s popularity among both men and women (it’s open to all, but does have a strong female presence in this region due to its focus on gender equality), it’s a trend they’re attributing to both the Isis-inspired backlash and a growing awareness of gender politics.

But the religion itself isn’t new – originating in Persia over 3,500 years ago, the monotheistic belief system [they worship a single God] predates Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and is founded on the poetry and songs of a prophet called Zoroaster.

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In an unprecedented move to help Amdavadis better understand the culture and religion that is Zoroastrianism, the Parsi Panchayat in the city opened the doors of the Vakil Adariyan Agiyari to observe and quench the curiosity of those who will never set foot inside the religious halls of the Parsis. Non-Parsis are not allowed inside an Agiyari. However, since renovations are underway at the 90-year-old structure, and since it will have to be consecrated again with a new fire at the end of repairs, the officials though it would be a good time to open the doors of the religious hall to give us a peek inside.

As one enters the holy place of worship, the words Humata Hukhta Hvarshta are noticeable. Explaining the same, Brigadier (retd) Jehangir Anklesaria, the president of the Parsi Panchayat says that these words contain the core beliefs of Zoroastrianism in the Avesta language. He said, “The words mean Good thoughts, Good words and Good deeds.” Anklesaria, explaining the character of this particular Agiyari and its importance, even showed the ‘Afringanyu’, the vessel which holds the holy fire in the ‘Keblo’ Sanctum Sanctorum of the Agiyari.

This is probably the first time in the 90 years of the Agiyari’s existence that even Parsis have entered this room, much less people from other religions. Only ‘Dastoors’ Parsi priests are allowed inside to keep the holy fire burning. The Agiyari, has not been renovated since 1986, and had developed cracks in one wall and had to be repaired. The wall was dug to its foundation and cement poured in to stop it from collapsing. The repairs cost Rs50 lakh.


The Afringanyu is kept in a small room and also has a cover that is attached to the roof of the room with the help of the pulley. The holy fire that burns in an Agiyari is made up of four types of fire taken from the houses of a king, a pauper, a farmer and a blacksmith. A prayer is carried out on all of them individually before mixing them one by one and there is prayer after mixing each one into the main fire. Five times aday, the bell is rung thrice and there is prayer on the holy fire by the priests.

Parsi and Me

Hi all, I’m a Parsi woman living in the UK and I made a short film about the Parsees, I would be grateful if you all could share adn watch and would love to know what you think so feel free to leave a comment. Thank you!


A journey through time to discover who the Parsees are and why, they may soon, be extinct. Ava Patel investigates.