Dec 24, 2019, 6:58 PM
Journalist ID: 2078
News Code: 83607142
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Timeline of evolutionary history of Iran's national org. for civil registration

Tehran, Dec 24, IRNA- Iran’s National Organization for Civil Registration is a governmental office with an independent judicial jurisdiction whose information and data is very important and vital for the country as it truly demonstrates the identity of one nation and its statistics. 

Although census is one of the first requirements of big country-wide planning, no census had been carried out in Iran until the last years of the Qajar Dynasty (1789-1925), meaning there were no surnames in Iran until then. 

Everybody was called by their names and choosing a surname followed several patterns, one of which was the profession of one’s ancestors. 

A tribe’s living place, name or the fame of a tribe’s elder (father, grandfather or paternal ancestor) were also used as surnames. 

Some others were given surnames based on their family business or profession (money changer, jewellery-maker or son of a doctor). 

Others got their surnames based on their physique (good-faced or champion). 

The word surname under the magnifying glass  

Interestingly enough, the wealthier people could get royal titles and be considered as royal family. For example, if a person’s name was Amin (meaning loyal/trustworthy), he could get the following titles Amin al-Dawla (the one to whom the government could confide), Amin al-Saltanat (the one to whom the state could confide), Amin Daftar (a trustworthy person in an office), Amin Lashkar (the one to whom an army could confide), Amin al-Waezin (the one to whom preachers could confide).

As this tendency grew, the then officials decided to issue an Identification Document (ID) for every Iranian and end giving more titles. 

As Iran entered an era of modernization, Qajar officials decided to create civil registration organisation that was then approved by the government cabinet on 25 December, 1918. 

Before establishment of such organisation, families wrote their kids’ birth dates on the back of holy books, especially the Quran and all dates were based on the lunar calendar rather than Iran’s solar calendar. 

Also, many people also remembered their birth dates with significant events of the time. As an example, when a person was asked when they were born, they’d say in the coronation year of  Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar (1896-1907), or the year when the parliament was shelled (1908) or they year when cholera broke out.   

When someone died, his/her death date was written on his/her tombstone without that person’s name. 

Iran’s Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911) played a major role in pushing the authorities to conduct a census. Before that, sometimes the kings ordered census. For example, in 1878, Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (1848-1896), ordered Zein al-Abedin Mirza Qajar to carry out a census in the northeastern city of Mashhad that showed 53,000 people lived there at the time. But, did not identify the city’s residents.  

Later, during the first parliamentary elections in Iran 1906, there need to be a system to stop possible voting violations. Then, Civil Registration Organisation was created in 1916 during the premiership of Hassan Vossug ed Dowleh. Two years later under his second cabinet, a 41-article document was adopted by then government and Civil Registration Organisation was created within the Home Affairs Ministry.

The first ID after the creation of the organisation was issued for Fateme Irani on 8 December 1918 in District 2 of the Iranian capital Tehran. 

At the beginning there were many problems for choosing a surname as the majority of Iranians were illiterates, so the organisations’ officers themselves chose a surname for people which complicated the situation as they could choose surnames based on pranks or inappropriate jokes. 

National Civil Registration Organisation was one of the first statistical centers of Iran and the Arabic word “Sejel” (meaning documenting) was replaced by Iranian words, making the IDs a paper to document indicating four important events of a person’s life: birth, death, marriage and divorce. 

Also, some first IDs have been stamped (sugar and lump stamp, rationing stamp, census stamp, …) that portrays a better picture of the situation in the then Iran. 

Later, new civil registration laws were adopted, for example in 1925 after national military service law was approved, issuing IDs which was based on people’s own will, was compulsory. 

The IDs were then used to enroll kids in elementary school, for the youth to enroll in the army and by all those who engaged in economic and business dealings. Most Iranians got their IDs after the Pahlavi Dynasty came into power in 1925.       

Ayatollah Pasandideh, brother of Iran’s 1979 Revolution Leader Imam Khomeini has interesting memories about those times. 

“Back in 1925, National Civil Registration Organisation officers came to our house to choose a surname for us. The then organisations’ chief Hosein Ali Bani Adam, who was a religious and thoughtful person, told me to choose a surname that has not been already taken by anybody else. We wanted to choose Mostafavi based on our father’s name (Mostafa). But they said no. So, I chose Hendi and my younger brother Seyed Nur al Din got the same surname,” says Ayatollah Pasandideh. 

“As the surname Hendi (meaning from India) could make people think that they were are connected to the UK, they told us to change it. And I accepted. I proposed Ahmadi which was the surname of our uncles, but they rejected again and told us to choose a Persian surname. So, I wrote up six Persian surnames and sent them to the organisations’ headquarters in Tehran. They chose Pasandideh out of all the other surnames. But my younger brother’s surname remained Hendi and Imam Khomeini’s surname was also Mostafavi. So, we three brothers got three different surnames,” he adds.  

Later in 1928, new Civil Registration law that contained 16 more articles was adopted and finally having a surname became compulsory after Iran’s civil law was approved in 1932. Under this law, a family’s breadwinner had to choose a surname for himself and his family. 

Under the 1928 civil registration law, nobody could document their properties in registered offices. 

IDs in Iran have been renewed but their content is the same as the one that was in previous documents.   

The country’s national civil registrations was reviewed and modified after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in 1984.


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