Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Five Dead, Hundreds Arrested in Iran Fire Festival

Middle East Times:
At least five people have been killed and hundreds injured in an annual fire festival before the Iranian New Year, the media reported on Wednesday. Some 841 were injured in different places in Iran from the explosion of homemade firebombs and firecrackers despite the police threatening to arrest anyone who threw explosives.

The student ISNA agency said that the police have arrested 174 people, who will have to stay in jail until the end of the New Year holidays, which begin on March 21 and last for two weeks. READ MORE

On the eve of the last Wednesday of the year, Iranians celebrate a pre-Islamic ritual (Chahar-shanbe Soori) by fireworks and jumping over bonfires in the streets.

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the regime - until recent years - did not recognize Chahar-shanbe Soori and sought to prevent people from celebrating the "superstitious" ritual.

The ceremony has always seen clashes between the police and youths who, undaunted by the warnings of arrest, turn it into a night of celebrations and vandalism.