The regime has been trying to prevent people from celebrating this ancient annual tradition ever since they seized power back in 1979, but have had little success with that as it is something deeply ingrained in not only Iranian culture, but also practiced in other countries throughout the region. It comes just before the new year, and also marks the beginning of Spring and has been practiced since before Islam began.
This year’s rather frantic and desperate attempt at suppressing the traditional use of fire and fireworks was motivated by fears of further unrest as the protests which began late last year continue in virtually all corners of Iran. This year, like all the rest, people celebrated in spite of the strict orders and proved the regime’s fears to be well-founded as there were indeed numerous protests all over Iran with people setting off fireworks, burning images of Khamenei in some cases, and many shouts of “Death to the Dictator.”
Footage and images are still in a bit of an early stage on social media, but in at least one video uploaded by a celebrator/demonstrator in Tabrize, improvised ‘grenades’ of some form were hurled at regime forces as they attempted to shut things down. Reports of clashes between demonstrators and forces were reported, with likely more to come.
MEK activists have distributed flyers and on their official web site and social media accounts have called outright for protests, urging people to rise up and rebel against the regime. The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran is not a new group, and in fact are quite large in number. They even rose up against the Shah prior to the revolution so they are no strangers to Iran’s version of liberal, anti-establishment activism.
(After the Shah, in 1988 when the massacre of around 30,000 people was committed by Khomeini, many of them were students and members of MEK.)
They are headed by one of the original founders, Maryam Rajavi, who is considered a ‘cult leader’ by some. Her name has been seen painted on walls as demonstrators call out “Death to Khamenei” and burn his images during these fire festival demonstrations.
A call for rebellion during the fire celebrations.
Whatever Rajavi is or is not, it cannot be denied that she’s played a significant role in bringing attention to the social, political and economic causes behind these waves of protests as well as to the demonstrations themselves. She and her organization wield more influence than they are perhaps acknowledged for in any mainstream media discussion about the protests and what the various motivations for them are.
Just who is what and means to do which thing can be sorted out later on if this regime actually falls. For now, she is the largest visible source of support for the men and women in Iran as they not only seek to preserve their heritage and traditions in the face of oppression, but now rise up seeking far more than that.
True freedom and democracy, which Iran has never before seen, even under the rule of the Shah, for it was just that, a rule. Not a democracy. It is clear that more than ever, the people have tired of endless dictatorships and should the regime fall, it will be a very different political system that they will work to create.
For now, they are scoring a small victory against the regime and defying all orders against celebrating their old, and much beloved tradition for the new year.
Here are just a few scenes from what has turned out to be an impressive show of resistance.
Combining bold protest with sacred tradition.