The following is a guest post by Dr. Sanaz Alasti, an Iranian legal scholar who spent time with us this summer as a Scholar in Residence. Dr. Alasti is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Lamar University. She is the author of several books, including one that provides a comparative perspective on punishments under international conventions and the laws of the United States and Iran.
Iran was ruled by monastic dynasties for over 2,500 years. Shi’ism became the official state religion under Safavid rule (1501-1722). The increasing influence of foreign powers in the region under the Qajars (1795-1925) began with a series of capitulations to Europeans, beginning with the Russians, in the 19th century. In 1906 the first Iranian Constitution was written. A series of laws were subsequently enacted, relating to criminal, civil, commercial, and family law.
There are a few basic facts that a legal researcher needs to know about the Iranian legal system. Following the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, the modern legal system was replaced by an Islamic legal system based on the Shi’ite version of Sharia law. This system of law formed in the early 1980s, during the tenure of the Ayatollah Ruhullah Musavi Khomeini. It replaced the secular system that two Pahlavi monarchs established in Iran during their consecutive reigns.
In 1936, Iranian legislation had made secular education a requisite for serving judges. Major changes were introduced in the area of family law under Reza Shah. With the passage of the Family Protection Law of 1967 (which was later significantly amended in 1975), extra-judicial divorce was abolished, and the Family Protection Law also established Family Courts to apply the new personal status legislation.
The first Penal Code of Iran was ratified in 1926. Following the revolution, in 1983, the first Islamic Penal Statute was ratified (Statute of Retaliation and Prescribed Punishments). In 1984, the Discretionary Punishment Statute was ratified.
Iran has a three-tiered court system:
- The State Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in Iran.
- The Courts of Appeal is the second instance court competent to review cases decided by public and revolutionary courts.
- The public courts have jurisdiction to deal as first instance tribunals and are divided into two categories dealing with civil cases and criminal offenses respectively.
The Law Library of Congress’s collection of Iranian legal materials includes primary sources as well as books on Iranian law that contain a general overview of the nation’s legal system. While most of the resources in the collection are in Farsi (Persian), the following lists include a number of English-language materials that provide great help for legal researchers.
- Business Laws of Iran (translated from Persian into English by Habib Shirazi, 1993)
- Civil Code (translated from the Persian by M.A.R. Taleghany, 1995)
- Civil Procedure Code (in Farsi)
- Penal Code (pre-1979)
- Law of Hodoud and Qasas (Punishment and Retribution) and Provisions Thereof (translated by Masouduzzafar Samimi Kia, 1983)
- Islamic Penal Code (in Farsi)
- Criminal Procedure Code (in Farsi)
- F.R.C. Bagley, The Iranian Family Protection Law of 1967: A Milestone in the Advance of Women’s Rights
- S.H. Amin, Commercial Law of Iran (1986)
- Shahla Haeri, Law of Desire: Temporary Marriage in Shi’i Iran (1989)
- Adineh Abghari, Introduction to the Iranian Legal System and the Protection of Human Rights in Iran (2008)
- Majid Mohammadi, The Constitution of Iran: Politics and the State in the Islamic Republic (1997)
- Asghar Shirazi, Constitutional Law in Iran (2012)
For more Iranian legal materials held in the Library of Congress, please visit the Library’s online catalog. If you need research assistance, you can submit your questions through the Law Library’s Ask A Librarian system.