Iranian New Year Ushers in New Round of Nationwide Protests

by Armin Baldwin
The Iranian new year, Nowruz, which literally translates to ”new day” falls on March 21st this year, but first the people must say farewell to winter. They do this during the “Festival of Fire,” on the last Tuesday before the New Year, March 20th. People celebrate winter’s end by jumping over firecrackers or even open flames. The run up to all this is the National Fire Festival, which began yesterday, March 13th.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has publicly condemned the holiday, and protesters seized the opportunity to show their distaste with the country’s leadership. Staging huge protests challenging the mullahs’ rule, the Iranian people hope that this year will truly represent a “new day” for their nation.

News coming out of the country on social media reports that the city sounds as if it is at war, with people ignoring the banned celebrations, and skirmishes between youths & security forces escalating.

The ancient Zoroastrian celebration has been turned into a major uprising. U.S. officials expect that a regime crackdown will follow, as it did after the December/January uprising.

The largest and most well organized opposition group in Iran, People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), are encouraging people to take advantage of the holiday to stage nationwide demonstrations — and people from all walks of life are supporting this new initiative. In fact, the PMOI/MEK tweeted that the people “have nothing to lose but their chains, yet they have a lot to win by removing the fascist clerical regime.”

Previously, the people used opportunities like this to stage a small, “hit-and-run” protests throughout the county’s cities and towns. But the turn of the year uprising changed all of that, and caught the regime by surprise. According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in the wake of that protest, some 8,000 people have been detained and more than 50 protesters have been killed while in custody.
The authorities in Iran find themselves in a difficult position, concerned about opening fire on the protests, yet shocked by the speed in which they have spread across the country.