NewsSpecial WireIran steps up repression as defiant youths take to...

Iran steps up repression as defiant youths take to streets

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Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Mar. 14 – Despite a massive crackdown to prevent this year’s “fire festival” from turning into scenes of anti-governments protests, young people are taking to streets across Iran to defy the government ban and celebrate the last Tuesday of the Persian year with a big bang, Iran Focus has learnt. Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Mar. 14 – Despite a massive crackdown to prevent this year’s “fire festival” from turning into scenes of anti-governments protests, young people are taking to streets across Iran to defy the government ban and celebrate the last Tuesday of the Persian year with a big bang, Iran Focus has learnt.

Already steps have been taken to prevent widespread protests from flaring during the traditional Persian festival celebrated by Iranians for over 2,500 years.

Mobile phone communication lines have been suspended in several parts of key Iranian provinces and an order has been issued in the Iranian capital banning motorbike riding on Tuesday.

Iran’s State Security Forces (SSF) have also stepped up arrests of people for distribution of fireworks in the past several days. The festival is barely tolerated by the authorities in the Islamic Republic, who object to it on the grounds that it is “un-Islamic”.

SSF chief Ismaeil Ahmadi-Moqaddam announced that large quantities of fireworks have been discovered and confiscated by his forces which have been placed on high alert.

The Tehran Public Prosecution Office has issued a statement, announcing that individuals caught creating “disruption in public order” will receive jail sentences of between three months to one year and up to 74 lashes on their backs in accordance with Iran’s Islamic laws.

Individuals caught distributing fireworks will receive between three and ten years in prison, the statement said.

During the festival, known as ‘chaharshanbeh souri’ – literally, Feast of Wednesday – people jump over bonfires to “drive away evil”. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, however, Iran’s theocratic leaders have made strenuous efforts to stamp out the festivities, but to no avail. In recent years, there have been extensive clashes between festive crowds and the security forces deployed to prevent street celebrations. This year the event falls on March 14.

Iran’s main opposition group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MeK), has issued an appeal to people across the country to take part in the celebrations on the night and turn it into an anti-government protest.

Iran’s official state news agency has announced that in the nights leading to the festivities, fireworks and loud sounds of explosions have been heard across Tehran.

Last year, despite the general ban Iranians across the country came out into the streets using the celebration as a pretext to express their anger towards the ruling theocracy. In several districts of Tehran effigies of Iran’s leaders such as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were burnt.

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