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Zoroastrian Member Of Yazd City Council Suspended

Sepanta Niknam, member of Yazd City Council.

A Zoroastrian member of Yazd City Council has been suspended from his position.

Sepanta Niknam received a temporary suspension verdict from Iran's Administrative Court of Justice, according to Gholamali Sefid, the head of the council.

"We will try to make sure this verdict does not become finalized, and even if this happens, we will take other measures," Sefid told Iran’s official news agency, IRNA.

Zoroastrians are followers of the ancient Iranian religion Zoroastrianism. The central Iranian city of Yazd is one of their hubs, harboring thousands of followers.

Niknam was elected for the second time as a member of Yazd City Council in May.

Pointing to the fact that Niknam’s membership in the previous council did not create any problem, Sefid said, "If a suspension verdict is issued, it will be a big shock to the people and the council.”

“It will have domestic and international political consequences and will harm the harmony between Yazd’s Muslim majority and Zoroastrian minority,” he added.

A branch of Iran's Administrative Court of Justice had issued a temporary suspension verdict following a lawsuit filed by Ali Asghar Bagheri, a candidate for the city council who did not receive enough votes to secure a seat. The verdict says that based on the opinion of the religious scholars on the Guardian Council it was prohibited for members of religious minorities to become a member of city councils.

The Guardian Council, which is in charge of overlooking presidential and parliamentary elections in Iran and and pre-approving candidates, does not have any direct role in city council elections. City council candidates should be approved by the parliament prior to election.

The deputy speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Motahari, criticized the suspension as illegal and said the verdict was issued only based on the opinion of Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council. It contradicted a law that the Guardian Council had approved years ago, Motahari added, and he promised to follow the matter through with the parliament.