After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the regime banned many ancient festivals, using the Iran-Iraq war as an excuse. This situation continued for more than a decade. The Islamic Republic’s founder Ruhollah Khomeini created an atmosphere of disillusion and suffocation by extending its devastating war with Iraq for eight years.
However, society could revive its spirit after the end of the war and the death of Khomeini. Since that time, while the regime lost its main means, foreign invasion, for the crackdown on the people and dissident, the traditional festivals and even religious ones turned into an opportunity for the society to express their wrath against the mullahs.
One of these festivals was the Chaharshanbeh Suri fire festival among Iranians and many Persian-language speakers. This festival includes several other traditions such as “spoon banging” and “horoscope eavesdropping.” However, the main ritual in jumping over bonfires. In this respect, at sunset, the people gather brushwood in free exterior space and make several bonfires. Then, they jump over the flames as a sign of burning the obsolescence and purification practice.
In recent years, the regime discouraged the people from holding these rituals, which faced an inverse response by the people and incited citizens, particularly youths, to adore them more. In this context, the mullahs are wholeheartedly concerned over this ceremony.
Additionally, after the recent developments in Iran and the regime’s violent reaction to the peaceful grievances, including the November protests over hikes in gas prices and the January protests against the mullahs’ secrecy about the downing the Ukrainian airliner by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the situation in Iran is completely different from previous years.
In this context, despite the coronavirus outbreak requiring people to stay at home and not attending the fire festival, the Iranian people seem to have decided to show their anger against the mullahs’ rule. Notably, a couple of days ago, the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei ordered the chief of Staff for the Armed Forces Mohammad Bagheri to form a “Health Base,” pursuing to cease the public wrath against the regime’s secrecy about the coronavirus outbreak in the country. However, the regime’s move is practically synonymous with martial law, instead of health or pre-emptive measures.
On the other hand, officials abuse the precautionary measures in order to suppress the people. “Any gathering on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year will be confronted and anyone who participates in these gathering will be quarantined for 14 days,” the state-run website ROKNA quoted the Attorney General of Babol city Esmail Molakarimi as saying on March 15.
A day later, the chief of the special unit for Tehran’s security forces Hossein Amjadian also threatened youths to curb holding the Chaharshanbeh Suri ceremony. “The people should stay at home on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year, and the special units are ready to deal with anyone who disrupts citizens’ calm,” the state-run news agency ANA quoted Amjadian as saying on March 16.
The Iranian people see the regime and the IRGC as the main culprit for transferring the COVID-19 disease to Iran and spreading it across the country. However, if the regime was really concerned for the people’s health, it would have quarantined Qom previously and confronted the Khamenei-linked institutes which have hoarded the necessary items for containing the illness.