Chaharshanbe Suri: Lighting the Flame

As the Persian Nowruz New Years inches closer, the regime’s new-found confidence stemming from its relatively successful prevention of massive protests on 22 Bahman may be deteriorating. Chaharshanbe Suri, a pre-Islamic fire festival with Zoroastrian roots, may have been the first instance of renewed clashes between protesters and the regime. The Nowruz holiday is celebrated with the arrival of spring on March 20th, while the 31st anniversary of the referendum creating the Islamic Republic falls on March 30th and Sizdah Bedar, the concluding holiday of the Persian New Year, falls on April 2nd. Needless to say, there are several instances where renewed clashes — whatever their size or intensity — can occur in the coming weeks.

As for ‘Red Wednesday,’ Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tried to ban the popular secular holiday altogether by issuing a fatwa days earlier stating the celebration is “void of religious roots and cause of great harm and corruption.” In an attempt to carry out his edict, the Revolutionary Guard deployed hundreds of forces in Tehran’s Haft-e Tir Square and Saadat Abad and Velanjak districts to prevent people from gathering. These areas have been gathering points for opposition protests in nearly each major demonstration since the rigged June election.

In issuing the fatwa, Khamenei essentially tried to eliminate a cultural tradition that dates back well over three millennia in only the Islamic Republic’s 31st year in existence. Apparently realizing the futility of the decree, a senior police official indirectly contradicted the Supreme Leaders supposedly sacrosanct words by not urging Iranians to avoid the holiday, but instead saying that “people should hold the celebration near their homes.” As , “This isn’t something that the government can take away from us. We’ve been doing this for 3,000 years. They should just accept it.”

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