With Iran’s fire festival, the mullahs have reason to be nervous
Iranians hold and celebrate many different events and festivals all year round.
“Charshanbe Soori,” is an ancient Persian “Festival of Fire” and one of the most beloved celebrations among the Iranian people. This festival has historic and ceremonial roots.
The Iranians will hold the fire festival very soon, on March 13, 2018. It always begins at the sunset of the last Wednesday of the Persian year, which will happen this year, too.
In this fire festival, ordinary Iranians pile tinder from bushes and pieces of wood in public places such as streets, alleys and squares, and then set them alight. People gather around the bonfires and jump over them, with shouting. The intention is to hope for enlightenment and happiness throughout the coming year. But it's not only that. The other reason is problematic for Iran's detested rulers, because with the help of fire, the people also recall tribulations. These include the long battle against dictatorship and the ignorance of reactionary forces throughout their history. For Iranians today, this especially includes the 39-year dark era of the ruling mullahs in Iran, from 1979 until now. By the light of fire, Iranians think about the true facts of their situation, and for many, the need to end this regime. The fire is conducive to meditative thinking. So with the fire festival, it is not uncommon for Iranians to think of ending the repression, torture, executions and human rights abuses that have taken over their country, and contemplate how the arrival of spring, as the New Year begins, (on the 20th of March 2018) brings hopes for ending this regime forever.
The fire festival has many customs. Spring housecleaning is carried out to welcome the New Year as well. This year, many people hope that that the whole country will wipe out the regime for a complete cleaning.
I am not projecting as I describe the Iranian festival this way. During the past decades, the Fire Festival (Charshanbeh Soori) in cities across Iran became the scene of protests and expressions of outrage against the regime. Last year, the sound of exploding grenades and firecrackers was heard constantly in many cities, following the explosion of firecrackers by angry young Iranians. In this case, the regime’s agents blacked out a whole town where it happened, and the attack of security forces on people turned to confrontation. Then clashes broke out between the youth and regime’s mercenaries who tried to disperse them.
But this year, the fire festival will be far different from that of last year, especially after the two-week uprising that rocked Iran earlier this year. The regime is now very fearful of the fire festival and has issued harassing directives in the public media to deter the people from holding the customary fire festival.
The mullahs not only fear more of the ongoing protests by Iranians throughout the country, they fear new calls for a nationwide uprising to mark this particular celebration, by the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Senior Iranian officials have acknowledged this group as the organizer of the recent flare-up of protests across the country. The upcoming fire festival and the calls for protest make the situation more crucial for the regime and its suppression forces.
According to a National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) report, the first vice-president of the Iranian regime noted recent protests in early January in Iran, and said: “It is the people’s hatred, anger, and grudges toward the officials and the system that should worry us.”
Eshaq Jahangiri, this same Iranian vice president, also warned against the danger of the people's “protest” turning into “hatred and anger.” In a speech on Tuesday, March 6, he spoke on the subject of the general demonstrations in Iran last January, saying, “Of course, some irrelevant words were spoken in some protests that were not acceptable to us...”
“Death to Khamenei” and “Death to dictator” were among those words, in fact, they were the main slogans chanted by people during the protests showing people’s hatred and anger towards the regime.
The street protests in Iran began on Dec. 29, 2017, beginning in the provincial city of Mashhad, with slogans against the poor livelihoods Iranians suffer as the mullahs grow rich, but they quickly swept the country and targeted the entire regime. Demonstrators in more than 200 small and large cities in Iran chanted slogans against Khamenei and the regime's top officials, and additionally condemned its interference in the region. The whole picture of their desire to overthrow the regime.
With the coming heated fire festival, the people in Iran have this message to the regime now: “Fire is the symbol of our long battle against dictatorship, we are all altogether, and repression will not affect us.”
Any wonder the mullahs are afraid?
Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in political and economic issues relating to Iran and the Middle East.