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Iran Government Clamps Down on Ancient Cultural Spring Festival, Fearing Protests

March 15, 2011

Opposition poster calls for protests during March 15th evening celebrations

March 14, 2011, Telegraph Iranians traditionally leap over bonfires and set off fireworks to mark the pagan festival of Chahar Shanbeh Soori, which is celebrated on the last Tuesday before March 21, the Persian new year.

This year, faced with an increasingly repressive crackdown on dissent, opposition leaders been calling on supporters to use the festival to express their resentment against the regime.

Esmail Ahmadi Moqaddam, a commander with the state security forces, warned that “buying and selling fireworks is illegal, and the police the police will severely confront offenders on the basis of the law.”

Bahman Kargar, another security official, told state television that “more than 3,059,000 fireworks have been confiscated and 65 individuals distributing such material have been arrested.”

Iran’s rulers have become increasingly worried that they could be swept away by the rising tide of political protest across the region.

Police were stretched to breaking point by the last major round of protests, which were held on March 10. [See March 1st and March 8th protest reports].

Hamid Farokhnia, a Tehran-based journalist, reported that “hundreds of children as young as 14 had to be deployed with batons and helmets.”

Key opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been detained along with hundreds of other opposition activists. Even Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the patriarchs of the Islamic revolution and a former president, was sacked from the Assembly of Experts, a constitutional body, after refusing to condemn the leadership of the pro-democracy movement.

The regime’s hardline tactics have incensed many, including the conservative clerics who formed the backbone of its legitimacy.

Earlier this month, the powerful Grand Ayatollah Mousavi Ardabili criticised the regime, saying its actions threatened to “create chaos in the society and a dark outlook.”

Iran’s government first moved against the spring festival last year, following a wave of protests against the controversial 2009 presidential elections, deploying hundreds of riot police and Islamist militiamen on Tehran’s streets to force city residents to tone down their celebrations.

Ayatollah Ali Kahmenei, the country’s supreme leader, had urged Iranians to shun the festival, saying it was un-Islamic and causes “a lot of harm.”

 

ALSO READ | AFP: Fire festival ‘endangers’ Iranian youth: judge

 

چهارشنبه سوري، آمادگي سبزها، هشدار رژيم

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