Iranian hard-liners shut down new year's festival
March 22, 1999 TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Revelers heading to a Persian new
year's festival said they were turned away Monday, apparently because Iranian
hard-liners believe the celebration evokes the country's pre-Islamic past.
Nowruz, or new year, festivities at Takht-e-Jamshid attracted about
3,000 people when they opened Sunday, the start of the new year.
Takht-e-Jamshid, about 640 kilometers (400 miles) south of the capital
Tehran, is the site of ruins from the 6th century capital of Persepolis.
But people who showed up Monday for the traditional songs and dances
were told the shows had been canceled. They would speak only on condition
they not be identified.
The festival had been scheduled to run for three days. Earlier, Tehran
radio quoted Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying: "It
is not an honor to attract the people to ruins that have no spiritual significance
and contain vestiges of the deposed monarchy."
In 1971, the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was deposed by the
1979 Islamic revolution, invited kings and presidents from around the world
to celebrate 2,500 years of the Iranian monarchy at Takht-e-Jamshid.
The controversy over the festival was yet another sign of a power struggle
between moderates allied with President Mohammad Khatami and hard-liners
clustered around Khamenei.
Since the Islamic revolution, hard-liners have tried to discourage Iranians
from celebrating Nowruz, which dates back to Iran's pagan past, with displays