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‘Charshanbe Soori’: Iran’s Fire Festival – OpEd

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Iranians hold and celebrate many different events and festivals all year round.

“Charshanbe Soori,” is an ancient Persian “Festival of Fire” and one of the most beloved celebrations among the Iranian people. This festival has historic and ceremonial roots.

Iranians will hold the fire festival on March 19, 2019. It always begins at the sunset of the last Wednesday of the Persian year, which will happen this year, too.

In this ancient custom, they sing: “Sorkhie to az man, zardie man az to,” which means: “I give my ill to the fire and receive the redness and warmth from the fire.”

In this fire festival, ordinary Iranians pile tinder from bushes and pieces of wood in public places such as streets, alleys, and squares, and then set them alight. People gather around the bonfires and jump over them, with shouting. The intention is to hope for enlightenment and happiness throughout the coming year.

But it’s not only that.

The other reason is problematic for Iran’s detested rulers, because, with the help of fire, the people also recall tribulations. These include the long battle against dictatorship and the ignorance of reactionary forces throughout their history.

For Iranians today, this especially includes the 39-year dark era of the ruling mullahs in Iran, from 1979 until now. By the light of the fire, Iranians think about the true facts of their situation, and for many, the need to end this regime.

The fire is conducive to meditative thinking. So with the fire festival, it is not uncommon for Iranians to think of ending the repression, torture, executions and human rights abuses that have taken over their country, and contemplate how the arrival of spring, as the New Year begins, (on the 20th of March 2019) brings hopes for ending this regime forever.

The fire festival also has other customs. Spring housecleaning is carried out to welcome the new year. This year, many people hope the whole country will wipe out the regime for complete cleaning.

So with the fire festival, it is not uncommon for Iranians to think of ending the repression, torture, executions, and human rights abuses that have taken over their country and contemplate how the arrival of spring, as the New Year begins (on March 20, 2019) and brings hope for ending this regime forever.

In response to the festival this year, the mullahs and their security forces have put bans in place on fireworks, letting businesses know they can lose their licenses to do business.

These economic threats are meant to discourage people from buying fireworks to celebrate the festival. Additionally, checkpoints are being put in place, and the security forces are making it uncomfortable for individuals to gather to celebrate.

The MEK (the Farsi initials for the democracy-promoting People’s Mojahedin of Iran) inside Iran have called for mobilization by the Iranian people together with the “resistance units” during the celebration, marking the festival as an annual anti-regime event. They have made this fire festivity a platform for the uprising and to welcome the new year.

Statements issued by the prosecutors general and revolutionary prosecutors of various provinces and cities throughout Iran indicate that they are preparing for an influx of arrests. It’s so extreme that in many instances, they have declared the creation of a separate branch to deal with violations and possible crimes related to the fire festival.

I am not projecting as I describe the Iranian festival this way: during the past decades, the fire festival in cities across Iran became the scene of protests and expressions of outrage against the regime. Last year, the sound of exploding grenades and firecrackers was heard constantly in many cities, following the explosion of firecrackers by angry young Iranians. In this case, the regime’s agents blacked out a whole town where it happened, and the attack of security forces on people turned to confrontation. Then clashes broke out between the youths and regime’s mercenaries, who tried to disperse them.

But this year, the fire festival will be very different from that of last year, especially after protests that rocked Iran during the past 16 months. The regime is even more fearful of the fire festival this year and has issued harassing directives in the public media to deter the people from holding the customary annual celebration.

The mullahs not only fear more of the ongoing protests by Iranians throughout the country but fear new calls for a nationwide uprising to mark this particular celebration by the resistance units. Senior Iranian officials have also acknowledged the resistance units as the organizer of the recent flare-up of protests across the country. The upcoming fire festival and the calls for protest make the situation more crucial for the regime and its suppression forces.

With the coming heated fire festival, the people in Iran have this message to the regime now: “Fire is the symbol of our long battle against dictatorship, we are all altogether, and repression will not affect us.”

Any wonder the mullahs are afraid?

*Hassan Mahmoudi is a  human rights advocate and Social Media journalist seeking democracy for Iran and peace for the region.

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Hassan Mahmoudi

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate and Social Media journalist seeking democracy for Iran and peace for the region.

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