Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ten arrested in Iran capital ahead of fire festival

Iran Focus: a pro-MEK website
Iran’s State Security Forces have arrested ten people in Tehran for distribution of fireworks days before Iranians celebrate a traditional “fire” festival which dates back to 500 B.C. Persia. The festival is barely tolerated by the authorities in the Islamic Republic, who object to it on the grounds that it is “un-Islamic”.

Greater Tehran’s police chief, confirming the arrests, announced that people caught distributing fireworks and sonic-booms would be identified and dealt with severely, the hard-line daily Kayhan reported on Saturday. READ MORE

Brigadier General Morteza Talai said that quantities of fireworks were discovered and confiscated.

During the festival, known as ‘chaharshanbeh souri’ – literally, Feast of Wednesday – people jump over bonfires to “drive away evil”. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, however, Iran’s theocratic leaders have made strenuous efforts to stamp out the festivities, but to no avail. In recent years, there have been extensive clashes between festive crowds and the security forces deployed to prevent street celebrations. This year the event falls on March 14.

Meanwhile, Iran’s main opposition group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MeK), has issued an appeal to people across the country to take part in the celebrations on the night and turn it into an anti-government protest.

Last year, despite the general ban Iranians across the country came out into the streets using the celebration as a pretext to express their anger towards the ruling theocracy. In several districts of Tehran effigies of Iran’s leaders such as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were burnt.
While the article says the MEK are asking people to turn the "Festival of Fire" into an anti-government protest, the truth is that the festival has long been an opportunity to protest against the regime and most expatriate groups have already been calling for protests on that date.