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Defiant Iranians Celebrate Festival Of Fire Despite Ban

Iranians last night openly challenged Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei by taking to the streets for the traditional Festival of Fire, which Khamenei had said has no religious basis and should not be celebrated.

Many people took to the streets and marked "Chaharshanbeh Suri" by leaping over bonfires, setting off firecrackers, and dancing. But some also chanted antigovernment slogans, including "Death to the dictator!"

Eyewitnesses told RFE/RL that there were tight security measures in the capital, where many police officers had been deployed in main squares and streets.

Here is a link to a video clip, reportedly from the city of Shahin Shahr, in which people are chanting, "Political prisoners must be released!"

In this video, people are chanting "Death to the dictator!" in the Sadeghieh district of Tehran:

Another video reportedly from Tehran, in which citizens are seen jumping over a huge bonfire:

This video is reportedly from Tehran's Ekbatan neighborhood, where a picture of Khamenei is set on fire.

Iranian authorities have tried unsuccessfully to ban the celebration of the Festival of Fire since the 1979 revolution. This year officials went to great lengths to prevent the festival from turning into a show of force by the opposition and to keep people at home. Still, people turned out in Tehran, Isfahan, Karaj, and other cities and demonstrated frustration with the government.

Here's video reportedly from Bandar Anzali, in which people dance around a bonfire:

The opposition Jaras website reported that in some parts of the Iranian capital, there were clashes with police.

The head of Tehran police, Ahmad-Reza Radan, is quoted by ISNA as saying that as many as 50 people have been arrested in connection with the "Chaharshanbeh Suri" festivities.

"Nearly 50 people who had caused a public nuisance to an unacceptable extent have been arrested by police," Radan said.

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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