Slavery in Iran

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A History of slavery in Iran during various ancient, medieval and modern periods is sparsely cataloged.

Under the Achaemenids[edit]

In general, mass slavery as a whole has never been practiced by Persians, and in many cases the situation and lives of semi-slaves (prisoners of war) were, in fact, better than those of the commoner.[1]

Slavery was an existing institution in Egypt, Media and Babylonia before the rise of the Achaemenid empire.

On the whole, in the Achaemenid empire, there was only small number of slaves in relation to the number of free persons and moreover the word used to call a slave was utilized also to express general dependence.[2] Usually, captives were prisoners of war that were recruited from those that rebelled against Achaemenid rule.[3]

Modern historians handle the book of Herodotus with care and according to Pierre Briant: "It is hard to separate history from fairly tale in Herodotus".[4] Herodotus has mentioned enslavement with regards to rebels of the Lydians who revolted against Achaemenid rule and captured Sardis.[5] He has also mentioned slavery after the rebellion of Egypt in the city of Barce[6] during the time of Cambyses and the assassination of Persian Satrap in Egypt. He also mentions the defeat of Ionians, and their allies Eretria who supported the Ionians and subsequent enslavement of the rebels and supporting population.[7]

According to Dandamayev:[8]

Under the Parthians[edit]

There is evidence from classical sources about practice of slavery under Parthian rule. According to Plutarch, there were many slaves in the army of the Parthian general Surena.[9]

Under the Sassanids[edit]

Under this period Roman prisoners of war were used in farming in Babylonia, Shush and Persis.[10]

Sassanid Laws of Slavery[edit]

Some of the laws governing the ownership and treatment of slaves can be found in the collection of laws of the Sassanid period called Matikan-e-Hazar Datastan.[11] Principles that can be inferred from the laws include:

1) The slaves were captured foreigners who were non-Zoroastrians.

2) The ownership of the slave belonged to the man.

3) The owner had to treat the slave humanely; violence toward the slave was forbidden. In particular beating a slave woman was a crime.

4) If a non-Zoroastrian slave, such as a Christian slave, converted to Zoroastrianism, he or she could pay his or her price and attain freedom.

5) If a slave together with his or her foreign master embraced Zoroastrianism, he or she could pay his slave price and become free.

To free a slave (irrespective of his or her faith) was considered a good deed.[12] Slaves had some rights including keeping gifts to them and at least three days of rest in the month.[13] The law also protected slaves, including: No one may inflict upon slaves a fatal punishment for a single crime... Not even the king himself may slay anyone on the account of one crime.[14]

Modern Period[edit]

In 1828 the slave trade against Circassians and Georgians was abolished. In the late 19th century the British Empire put an end to the slave trade in Iran.[15] However slavery was still common in Iran under the Qajar dynasty. Slavery was formally outlawed in Persia by Rezā Shāh in 1928.[16][17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Farazmand, Ali (1998) “Persian/Iranian Administrative Tradition”, in Jay M. Shafritz (Editor), International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp 1640–1645 – Excerpt: "Persians never practiced mass slavery, and in many cases the situations and lives of semi-slaves (prisoners of war) were in fact better than the common citizens of Persia." (pg 1642)
  2. ^ M. A. Dandamayev, BARDA and BARDADĀRĪ in Encyclopedia Iranica
  3. ^ M. A. Dandamayev, BARDA and BARDADĀRĪ in Encyclopedia Iranica
  4. ^ Pierre Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander, 1195 pp., Eisenbrauns Publishers, 2006, ISBN 1-57506-120-1, ISBN 978-1-57506-120-7.
  5. ^ Pierre Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander, 1195 pp., Eisenbrauns Publishers, 2006, ISBN 1-57506-120-1, ISBN 978-1-57506-120-7, p.37
  6. ^ J. D. Fage, R. A. Oliver, The Cambridge History of Africa: From C.500 BC to AD1050, 858 pp., Cambridge University Press, 1979, ISBN 0-521-21592-7, ISBN 978-0-521-21592-3 (see page 112)
  7. ^ David Sansone, Ancient Greek Civilization , 226 pp., Blackwell Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-631-23236-2, ISBN 978-0-631-23236-0 (see page 85)
  8. ^ M. A. Dandamayev, BARDA and BARDADĀRĪ in Encyclopedia Iranica
  9. ^ Ehsan Yar-Shater, W. B. Fisher, The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian periods , 1488 pp., Cambridge University Press, 1983, ISBN 0-521-24693-8, ISBN 978-0-521-24693-4 (see p.635)
  10. ^ Evgeniĭ Aleksandrovich Beliyayev, Arabs, Islam and the Arab Caliphate in the Early Middle Ages, 264 pp., Praeger Publishers, 1969 (see p.13)
  11. ^ K. D. Irani, Morris Silver, Social Justice in the Ancient World , 224 pp., Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995, ISBN 0-313-29144-6, ISBN 978-0-313-29144-9 (see p.87)
  12. ^ K. D. Irani, Morris Silver, Social Justice in the Ancient World , 224 pp., Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995, ISBN 0-313-29144-6, ISBN 978-0-313-29144-9 (see p.87)
  13. ^ K. D. Irani, Morris Silver, Social Justice in the Ancient World , 224 pp., Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995, ISBN 0-313-29144-6, ISBN 978-0-313-29144-9 (see p.87)
  14. ^ K. D. Irani, Morris Silver, Social Justice in the Ancient World , 224 pp., Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995, ISBN 0-313-29144-6, ISBN 978-0-313-29144-9 (see p.87)
  15. ^ Emancipation and its Legacy in Iran: An Overview Behnaz A. Mirzai, Brock University, Canada
  16. ^ J.G. Lorimer, Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf and Central Arabia (Calcutta: Superintendent Government, 1915), 2491; Sir Arnold T. Wilson, The Persian Gulf (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1959-[1928]), 230.
  17. ^ W. A. Veenhoven, W. C. Ewing, S. P. Samenlevingen, Case Studies on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: A World Survey, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1975, ISBN 90-247-1956-9, ISBN 978-90-247-1956-3 (see page 449)

Further reading[edit]

Last number(s) indicate pages:

A. Perikhanian (1983). "Iranian Society and Law". In Ehsan Yar-Shater, William Bayne Fisher, and Ilya Gershevitch. The Cambridge History of Iran. 5: Institutions. Cambridge University Press. pp. 634–640. ISBN 9780521246934. 

Anthony A. Lee, “Enslaved African Women in Nineteenth-Century Iran: The Life of Fezzeh Khanom of Shiraz,” Iranian Studies (May 2012).

Amir H. Mehryar, F. Mostafavi, & Homa Agha (2001-07-05). "Men and Family Planning in Iran" (PDF). "The IUSSP XXIVth General Population Conference in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, August 18–24, 2001". p. 4.