March 17, 2004,
New Year, New Destiny
Iranians fight for their future.
On Tuesday night, Iranians celebrated Chaahaarshanbeh Souri, the feast of fire. This is an ancient Persian celebration, predating Islam by a couple of thousand years; it marks the approaching of the Iranian new year (which is also pre-Islamic), celebrated on March 21, the vernal equinox. People build small bonfires and jump over the flames to purify and purge themselves of all the negativity and pain of the passing year so that they can begin the new year with a clean spirit and fresh outlook. During this celebration, it is also customary to light sparklers and throw fireworks. Since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, the mullahs have done everything they could to dissuade the people of Iran from continuing these Persian celebrations, calling them pagan in an attempt to eradicate the Persian heritage from Iran.
Over the past few weeks, there were threats of major March 16 clashes, as the mullahs continued to force the issue of this celebration being haraam religiously prohibited or unclean because it occurs during the religious month of Mohharram, which is fraught with mourning for Shiite martyrs. Fatwahs were issued by various major and minor clerics. The regime also warned against sparklers and fireworks, insisting that they are banned.
Early Tuesday afternoon, in the wake of five days of severe clashes in northern Iran, in the town of Fereydoun-Kenaar (as well as other serious clashes in the southern part of Iran and weeks of clashes in Iranian Kurdistan, which began days before the scheduled February 20 elections), people all over Iran made good on the threat and took to the streets, not only to celebrate, but to also draw on the clashes up north, down south, and in Kurdistan. Clouds of smoke from the detonation of M80's, homemade mini-hand grenades, and Molotov cocktails filled the air. From one city to the next, similar stories were heard. One account mentioned plans to hang a life-sized puppet of Khamenei, intended to be burned in effigy under the Sattaar Khaan Bridge in Tehran. The effigy seems to have been blocked by the non-Iranian revolutionary guards, who are often Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, Afghan Arabs, and Yemenis who are imported to beat up on the people of Iran, since it is only the rare Iranian who wants to beat up on other Iranians anymore.
For a while there was no sign of the police. This was the mullahs' way of performing for the foreign press who were visiting Iran; it was a way of looking liberal and easygoing. But by about 9 P.M., in the town of Gohar Dasht (a suburb of Tehran), the movement reached a fever pitch; demonstrators had taken over the roads and main arteries chanting and yelling slogans when eight pickup trucks carrying dozens of armed non-Iranian revolutionary guards arrived on the scene, savagely attacking people with knives, billy clubs, and chains. Tear gas was released in the streets in order to disperse the celebrants. People scattered-many into the homes of townsfolk who had stayed home-they left their doors open for the celebrants/protesters to take refuge. The people worked together to protect each other against the brutal regime-they all know its wrath too well.
In other cities like Gorgaan where a six-month-old child had been trampled by the guards, anger lead demonstrators toward the local police headquarters, proclaiming that they would set it on fire. In Mashhad, approximately 300 people were arrested, while many more were knifed and severely beaten by the terror forces of the government.
It must be noted, though, that despite the clashes, Iranians enjoyed the celebrations. Music played; people laughed (which is actually banned by the mullahs); girls and boys were seen dancing together (which is also banned); girls lifted off their scarves. There was a general a feeling of inspiration and dedication. And there was a special symbolic joy in the lighting of bonfires, using pictures of all the major mullahs.
Tuesday was a victory; it was one more jolt to the weakening anatomy of the theocratic fascists. All in all this was one of the most significant days in the seven-year course of bitter and fateful battles between the 70 million Iranian hostages of the mullahcracy. Few in the West are listening and hearing the cries of the people of Iran, but that's okay, because we will be the power behind forging our own future; for Iranians, the mullahs and their Western enablers will be history.
Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, a native of Iran, is currently and activist and writer based in New York.