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By Safa Haeri
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004

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(This article was delayed due to some technical problems)

TEHRAN, 21 Mar. (IPS) For the first time in more than 25 years, Iranians were able to celebrate their age-old, traditional and cherished New Year ceremonies in almost total freedom, as the ruling clerics, most of them opposed to any pre-Islamic symbols of Iranians, had ordered the security and police forces not to prevent people commemorating No Rooz, meaning new day and starting on 20 of March, the beginning of spring time.

Like the Iranians and the Kurds, people in Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan also celebrate No Rooz which, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, has become the official calendar in many other Central Asian nations like Kazakhstan, Kirghizistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Turkey and Syria too has decided to declare No-Rooz official holiday that is also celebrated in India.

Unlike past years that the ruling ayatollahs had banned the tradition, including the famous Chahar Shanbeh Soori festivities, the last Wednesday of the Iranian year when people dress bonfires over which they jump, saying "my yellowish to you, your reddish to me", meaning throwing into the fire all the bad, sad, unhealthy things, symbolised by the yellow colour, they had faced during the year, replacing it with happiness, health and joy, of which red is a symbol, the authorities not only this year allowed people to go ahead with the ceremonies, but also has prepared special places in the streets and parks for the traditional bonfires.

Even hard line ayatollah like Ahmad Jannati, the Secretary of the Council of the Guardians had, in his last Friday sermon, did acknowledged for the first time that No Rooz and all its affiliated ceremonies are traditions important to the Iranians and must be respected.

Mirroring the ayatollah’s despise of Iranians pre-Islamic traditions and civilisation and their sustained efforts to present Iranian history before the conquest of the Persian Empire by Islam and Arab armies as "uncivilised and pagan", the State-run Radio and Television, controlled directly by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the leader of the regime, did nothing in participating in the ceremonies, emphasising instead the Islamic side of the New Year, which is basically a non religious tradition, adding to the anger of the population of the Islam-based regime.

Scholars and political analysts told Iran Press Service though the victory of the conservatives in the 20 February Legislative elections is "certainly|" one of the reasons the authorities decided to be more friendly with the people, but the real motive is that they were genuinely afraid that if they continue to oppose the celebration, they might face a popular unrest.

"The political atmosphere of the nation is so exacerbated, the people, mostly the young generation, are so angry with the regime and the way the last electoral farce has been played had produced such a deceptive mood that a small spark could set an explosion", explained Mr. Mohammad Sazegara, a political dissident and journalist sentenced to one year of imprisonment on charges of activities and propaganda against the regime

In his opinion, the way the Council of the Guardians had handled the elections, barring from the race more than 2.500 reformist candidates, including a hundred lawmakers making sure that the next Majles is firmly controlled by the conservatives in the one hand and the way the reformists and above them, President Mohammad Khatami conducted themselves during the years they had the upper hand in both the Legislative and the Executive on the other has convinced the voters that this regime with its political structures is not reformable, hence their apathy towards the last elections.

In their New Year messages to the nation, Ayatollah Khameneh’i stressed on the "necessity" for the three branches and the officials to be "in the service of the people and respond to their demands, mostly in the fields of job creating, fighting discriminations and corruption".

And despite the "divorce" of the population with the ruling theocracy, he drew a rosy picture of the situation, insisting that the people, by going "massively to the polls, once again demonstrated their attachments to the system and Islamic values", despite the fact that the majority of the voters had turned their backs to the elections, "repudiating" both wings of the clerical leadership.

On the other side, leaders of Iranian opposition groups and political personalities based outside Iran stressed on the growing difficulties the regime faces at home and its isolation on the international scene, called on the population to continue the civil disobedience movement in order to force the rulers to accept a referendum on the country’s political system, one that the majority of the Iranians say should be a secular and parliament-based democracy.

Families of some political prisoners like Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, Taqi Rahmani, Hoda Saber, Naser Zarafshan, Iraj Jamshidi and Hashem Aqajari, joined by some 70 family members, friends and dissident nationalist-religious personalities like Ezzatollah Sahhabi, Mohammad Basteh Negar and Mohammad Maleki or Fariborz Ra’is Dana dressed a huge No Rooz table known as "haft sin", or the seven S near the notorious Evin prison, where inmates had been allowed to mark the New Year.

In interviews with the Persian services of some foreign-based

Radios, the wives of some of the prisoners protested to President’s Khatami’s acknowledgement that "there is nothing he could do concerning the situation of political prisoners" and warned that if the leader-controlled Judiciary continue with its illegal treatment of the case of the prisoners, they would call on international organisations.

"The regime has taken away the source of joy and serenity from us as well as from Iranians. The Judiciary is ignoring all laws, keeping our beloved one in prisons in total illegality", Mrs. Aqajari told the German Deutsche Welle.

However, inhabitants of larger towns, unable to afford the ceremonies that accompany the No Rooz tradition of receiving at home family and friends and other expenses, due mostly to the savage and sky rocking prices of basic food stuffs, preferred to go to the sunny coasts of the Persian Gulf or the Caspian Sea resorts.


Related info:

NowRooz Persian New Year


Related info:

NowRooz Persian New Year

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