Salam, nowruz mubarak!

By | 20 March 2014

<<!سلام ,نوروز مبارک>>

By Ben Politowski

Today, 20th March, is the Hormoz (the first day of a Persian month) of Farvardin, and marks the first day of the Iranian new year or ‘nowruz’. Said to have been founded by the prophet Zoroaster himself, this celebration of the ‘new day’ is one of the holiest days in the Zoroastrian calendar, and is still celebrated worldwide today.

This year the LawBod Blog seeks to mark Nowruz in its own particular way – by examining some of our resources available on the legal jurisdiction of Iran (and using this as a handy excuse to remind you that we collect material for a wide range of subjects!).Iranian law books on shelf.

Nestled amongst our ‘rest of the world’ collection on Floor 1 of the law library, you could be forgiven for overlooking the fairly small number of books which deal specifically with Iranian law as this is not an area which has received a lot of serious academic attention in the legal sphere. Whilst simple guides to the Iranian legal system, the constitutional structure of the executive, and the varying role of the judiciary can be found online, the researching scholar could do far worse than to consult two detailed books by Mohammadi: Judicial Reform and Reorganization in 20th Century Iran (2008) [Iran 510 M697a] and Constitutional Law in Iran (2012) [Iran 510 M697b].

Searching for primary sources on the law of Iran, it helps to have some background knowledge to the country’s constitutional history. The Constitutional Revolution of 1906-7 paved the way for the creation of a new Iranian constitution and formation of the Majlis (parliament). With the rise of the Pahlavi kings, Iran became a constitutional monarchy de jure, but with a powerful head of state who controlled the executive. The Islamic Revolution of 1979 led to the writing of a new constitution; one which would transform the judiciary, government and executive with the hope of creating a new culturally, economically and politically independent Iran.

The Bodleian Libraries do hold copies of this constitution – both in farsi and english – but sadly none are held within the law library. Translated versions are also available online, for example from the Iran Chamber Society.

The attempt since the revolution of 1979 to amalgamate shari’a law – a law which is predominantly a jurist’s law rather than a judge’s law – has led to the creation of law codes. Both a Civil Code (translated edition available within the law library) and a Penal Code (available online from here, or here) form the legislative basis for many judicial proceedings in Iran.

This blog post ends with a word of warning: Iran has undergone a lot of political change in the past fifty years, and much of what is written – especially on the internet – cannot be considered without betraying a form of political bias. For the legal scholar researching on Iran, a familiarity with the political history is still a necessity.

Some other resources:

Nowruz entry in Encyclopaedia Iranica

Islamic Republic’s Penal Code from 1982 (revised in 1989)

Iran Heritage Foundation

Haleem, M., A. Sherif & K. Daniels (eds), Criminal Justice in Islam: Judicial Procedure in the Shari’a, (London, 2003)

Jany, J., Judging in the Islamic, Jewish and Zoroastrian Legal Traditions, (Farnham, 2012)

Mallat, C., Introduction to Middle Eastern Law, (Oxford, 2007)

Peters, R., Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law, (Cambridge, 2005)

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