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Source: Iranintl

Mar 13, 2023

Author: Maryam Sinaee

Young Iranians took to the streets in several cities Monday after a call for three nights of protests, including the celebration of the ancient fire festival Tuesday.

Videos posted on social media show small groups of youth marching and chanting anti-government slogans in some neighborhoods of the capital Tehran, Mashhad, Qazvin, and Malayer.

A few videos show burning trash bins and car tires on the streets and youth throwing firebombs at government buildings and banks.Youth groups had called since late February for three nights of protests, including the Charshanbeh Souri fire festival on Tuesday.

In its social media posts, the United Youth of Iran, an alliance of various “neighborhood youth” groups from around the country fighting to overthrow the regime, urged everyone to form “neighborhood-centered” groups and take to the streets to protest.

The group vowed in a statement to turn the fire festival into a “symbol” of battling the “suppressive and criminal regime” and “the reactionary Islamic culture” that “has eliminated or harshly suppressed individuals for their different beliefs for many years.”

The fire festival is celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year, just before the New Year (Nowruz), which marks the day of the Spring Equinox. The festival dates to pre-Islamic times and for the same reason, its celebration is considered as a pagan practice by the clerics running the country since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Celebration of ancient festivals such as Nowruz and Charshanbeh Souri have persevered despite the many efforts of religious fundamentalists who tried to obliterate and replace them with Islamic feasts.

An artwork created in support of protests in the last week of the Iranian year showing a police car on fire

Nowruz is still the most important calendar event of the year and celebrated as always, but Charshanbeh Souri has taken a quite different character. Authorities resorted to harsh measures to suppress its celebration in the streets, often bringing out the police, Basij militia, and vigilante groups who clashed with the youth and even arrested them for lighting bonfires.

Ancient Iranians lit fires on their rooftops during the last five days of the year to help the spirits of the dead to find their way and reunite with their families.

In more recent times, people made several small brushwood fires in their courtyards or outside the house and jumped over the flames chanting, “Take away my sickly pallor and give me your red glow! ” Firecrackers were also popular with the children and youth.

Jumping over fire was followed by a host of traditions including lighting candles, singing, dancing, poetry recitation, going door to door and banging on bowls with spoons to get treats, and sharing food.

Over the years, massive bonfires and small homemade bombs have largely taken the place of brushwood fires and firecrackers. Streets often turn into battlegrounds between the dancing and merrymaking youth and the police on the last Tuesday of the year.

In a statement Tuesday, the ministry of intelligence said it had arrested members of terrorist teams” across the country including twenty-one members of a group linked with the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) in Tehran and confiscated a variety of explosives from them.

Those arrested were planning to set fire to public property such as buses, the ministry claimed and vowed to take decisive action against “terrorists” who, it said, aim to harm people and “cast the blame for their criminal actions on the security forces.”

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