Fire Festival of Beatings and Arrests

2010/03/17

Published in German daily newspaper “Tageszeitung” on 17. March 2010
Source (German): http://taz.de/1/politik/asien/artikel/1/pruegel-und-festnahmen-zum-feuerfest/
English translation kindly provided by Josh Manning

Violent confrontations broke out between the opposition and security forces in major cities nationwide. In Tehran, 50 people have been detained.

Seen at a demonstration in Budapest (Picture: Reuters)

Violent confrontations took place on Tuesday between opposition activists and security forces in the capital of Tehran and throughout major cities. According to statements by the police, fifty people were taken into custody in Tehran alone. The festival Chaharshanbe Soori is held every year on the eve of the last Wednesday before the year’s end. The Iranian New Year starts on March 21st. The festival dates back to pre-Islamic times 3,000 years ago. According to the custom, one must jump over seven piles of burning kindling at dusk and repeat: My paleness belongs to you, your redness belongs to me. Songs are then sung and sweet foods are enjoyed.

In the past year, the festival has been increasingly politicized. Particularly the youth have taken up the occasion to vent their frustrations over the unbearable conditions in the country. This year, the festival was another opportunity for the opposition to continue their protests.

The regime had taken numerous precautions. After more than 30 years, it supposedly came to revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s mind that Chaharshanbe Soori was incompatible with Islamic principles. He released a religious directive known as a fatwa, saying that the festival originates from the time of fire worship and thus is “directed against reason”.

Moreover, police, Revolutionary Guards and Basij-militias had deployed maximum security measures to control important roads. Starting in the early afternoon, helicopters were circling around the capital. At some crossroads, even tanks stood ready. The commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s security in Tehran, Hossein Sadjedinia, explained on Monday that his troops were preparing for a maneuver that would be practiced should they be placed on high alert. “We will deliver harsh punishment to anyone who causes unrest”, he said.

Some were discouraged and stayed home. However, this did not prevent them from celebrating the festival with firecrackers and fireworks in the streets outside their homes. Additionally, they rose to the rooftops to shout “Allahu Akbar” and “Down with the dictator”. Others took up the battle with the security forces, wich resulted in warlike conditions in some urban districts. Regarding the number of injured, there is no information.

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