The Yarsan faith, also known as Ahl-e Haqq (People of the Truth) is estimated to have about two million followers in Iran, most of whom live in the western, predominantly Kurdish provinces, especially in Kermanshah. This religion also has some followers in Turkey and Iraq. This religious minority is not recognized by the Iranian Constitution, and the members of this community have faced continuous discrimination and persecution in the country. Sirvan, a follower of the Yarsan religion, from Sarpol-e- Zahab in Kermanshah province, remembers a bitter day of discrimination in school 25 years ago.
Sirvan says: “I grew up in a moderately religious Yarsani family. The Yarsan religious traditions and ritual practices were well preserved and performed often. When I was 9 years old, we had a very religious, fanatical guidance counselor at school. Although we had no understanding of religious issues at that age, we could feel his hatred for our beliefs. One day, during a Yarsan holiday when most of us were fasting, he entered the classroom, and under the pretext of a Shiite Imam’s birth, distributed some chocolate among the children. He asked everyone to eat it right then and there. He emphasized that anyone who refused to eat the chocolate would have committed a great sin and must be punished. Although many of the students resisted at first, they saw that several of their classmates who refused were punished and they were forced to break their fast.”