The overwhelming majority of Iranians are Shi’ite Muslims with numbers as high as 80 percent of the population.
Around 18 percent are Sunni and Sufi Muslims and the remaining two percent are made up of religious minorities.
They are Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians including Assyrian, Chaldean, and Armenian. These are the only minorities free to practise their religions under state law and they have representation in parliament.
With a population of around 15,000 in the capital and more across the country Iran has the largest Jewish minority in the Islamic world. The history of the Jews presence in Iran dates back to 3000 years.
Mir Akhor is an Iranian- Jew: “The community will take part in the elections as they consider this as their national duty,
as we have direct representation for the minorities in the parliament, but we can only vote for one of the two candidates that have been approved by the Guardian Council.”
In Tehran there are 10 synagogues the Abrishami Synagogue is located in central Tehran it has capacity to hold 500 people and is a focal point for Jewish families in the capital.
Mr. Khaldar is a member of the Jewish community in Tehran:“Firstly, we appreciate the Iranian officials that have allowed all the minorities to have at least one seat each in the parliament. This is really appreciated.”
Christians are the largest religious minority in Iran with approximately 250,000 in the country.
By far the largest Christian group are the Armenians and they have a relationship with Iran stretching back to 300 BC.
Mr Amirkhanian is an Iranian-Armenian:
“All over the world, in all societies, nothing is perfect. Iran is no exception. Well, sometimes there have been problems, for example about the issue of blood money, fortunately, this issue has been solved. On legal issues, well, we solve each issue on a case by case basis. I cannot say that Armenian rights are respected 100 percent, but it’s the same for Iranians, sometimes they are respected.
In general, in terms of social issues,associations, schools, and churches all are active. There has been no problem for us to practice our religion.”
Day to day decision making within the community is carried out by the Caliphate Council of Armenians, which is the highest authority overseeing religious, political, cultural and social issues.
Karen Khanlari is an Iranian-Armenian MP and is standing for reelection. Despite having representation in parliament it is difficult for minorities to hold higher office: “When President Rouhani had just taken office, I proposed four individuals for different deputy minister and advisory posts in education, higher education, energy, etc. There were discussions about who these individuals were and whether they had the required expertise, etc. There is hope and we keep trying.”
Our correspondent in Tehran is Javad Montazeri: “After the Islamic Revolution, religious minorities had to commit to Islamic rules and regulations they are banned from promoting their religion outside of their communities, but they are allowed to worship in their language and observe religious traditions.”
Iran goes to the polls Friday, February 26.