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Radio Farda Links Iranians Worldwide to Celebrate Persian New Year

(Prague, Czech Republic -- March 21, 2006) Eight hours of special Radio Farda programming on March 20 helped to bring listeners in Iran together with colleagues and friends around the world to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

The program included a series of interviews with young Iranians, many of whom complained about the seriousness and mournful tone of Iranian state broadcasts. They said state media are focusing less on the joy of the Persian New Year and more on the coinciding date of a religious holiday, commemorating the death roughly 1,300 years ago of Imam Hussein, one of the holiest figures for Shia Muslims.

Radio Farda programming provided an alternative to Iranian listeners with information and news geared to the Nowruz holiday. A report on travel, based on interviews with Iranian travel agents, found that Iranians increasingly are going abroad over the official three-day Nowruz holiday, mostly to Turkey and Dubai. A Tehran psychologist interviewed by Radio Farda explained that particularly young people feel hemmed in by the many restrictions at home, and no longer like to spend vacations inside Iran.

A Nowruz program for Iranian youth took a look at the way Iranian culture and history is taught at half a dozen universities in Europe. Another program on poetry, included a reading for Radio Farda by Simin Behbahani, one of the best known poets in Iran today. Radio Farda yesterday launched a ten-part series for Nowruz on the performing arts, featuring a daily interview with a celebrity. Yesterday's broadcast was a conversation with famous Iranian actor Ezatollah Entezami. Radio Farda's special Nowruz programming also included a phone interview with Iranian writer and humorist Hadi Khorsandi, who lives in London.

The daily "Your Voice" program, airing phone messages left by listeners, was kept light-hearted with Nowruz greetings and songs, instead of the usual complaints about the injustices and absurdities of the clerical regime. Radio Farda averages 100 calls a day from listeners all over Iran. Some of their serious issues were addressed in a special Nowruz interview yesterday with the founder and head of a France-based Iranian human rights group, Abdolkarim Lahiji.

Radio Farda, a joint project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Voice of America (VOA), is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service. Broadcast from Washington and Prague and transmitted to listeners via AM, shortwave and satellite and Internet, it features at least 8 hours of news and current affairs programming daily as well as Western and Persian music aimed at a younger audience. Radio Farda programming is also available via the Internet, at the service's website and at; English-language news about events in Iran can also be found on the RFE/RL website. To learn more about Radio Farda and its coverage of events in Iran, read and subscribe to "Focus on Farda".