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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The jazia has been abolished


In

Yezd the Guebres told me that they possessed very few sacred books in their temple (or if they had them could not show them). They said that all the ancient books had been destroyed by the Mahommedans or had been taken away to India.

There were also several smaller temples in the neighbourhood of Yezd, which had gone through a good many vicissitudes in their time, but now the Parsees and their places of worship are left in comparative peace. Parsee men and women are still compelled to wear special clothes so as to be detected at once in the streets, but this custom is gradually dying out. The women are garbed in highly-coloured striped garments, a short jacket and a small turban, leaving the face uncovered. The men are only allowed to wear certain specially-coloured cloaks and are not allowed to ride a horse in the streets of Yezd.

Parsees do not enjoy the civil rights of other citizens in Persia, and justice was until quite lately out of the question in the case of differences with Mussulmans. At death a man's property would be lawfully inherited by any distant relation who had adopted the religion of Moslem, instead of by the man's own children and wife who had remained faithful to their creed; and in the matter of recovering debts from Mussulmans the law of Persia is certainly very far indeed from helping a Guebre. This is necessarily a great obstacle in commercial intercourse.

Worst

of all the burdens formerly inflicted upon the Guebres--as well as upon Armenians and Jews of Persia--was the "jazia" tax. Some thousand or so male Guebres of Yezd were ordered to pay the tax yearly, which with commissions and "squeezes" of Governors and officials was made to amount to some two thousand tomans, or about L400 at the present rate of exchange. Much severity and even cruelty were enforced to obtain payment of the tax.

The Parsees were, until quite lately, debarred from undertaking any occupation that might place them on a level with Mahommedans. With the exception of a few merchants--who, by migrating to India and obtaining British nationality, returned and enjoyed a certain amount of nominal safety--the majority of the population consists of agriculturists and scavengers.

Mainly by the efforts of the Bombay Amelioration Society of the Parsees, the Guebres of Yezd and Kerman fare to-day comparatively well. The "jazia" has been abolished, and the present Shah and the local Government have to be congratulated on their fairness and consideration towards these fine people. May-be that soon they will be permitted to enjoy all the rights of other citizens, which they indeed fully deserve. Many steps have been made in that direction within the last few years. The Parsees are a most progressive race if properly protected. They are only too anxious to lead the way in all reformation, and, with all this, are remarkable for their courteousness and refined manner.

The most prominent members of the Yezd community, especially the sons of Meheban Rustam, have been the pioneers of trade between Yezd and India. Besides the excellent Parsee school, several other institutions have been established in Yezd and its suburbs by the Bombay Society, supported by a few charitable Parsees of Bombay and some of the leading members of the Parsee community in Yezd. The Bombay Society has done much to raise the Zoroastrians of Persia to their present comparatively advanced state, but trade and commerce also have to a great extent contributed to their present eminence.


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