To celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year, President Obama sent a videotaped message to the Iranian leadership expressing his eagerness to have a “new beginning” between the U.S. and the unelected rulers of Iran — one based on commerce, peace, and mutual respect, and not on arms, threats, or division. The mullahs likely celebrated Nowruz with cheers and smiles, knowing their investments in terrorism and nuclear technology are bringing in good returns.
The Iranian people, however, spent Nowruz acting in defiance of the regime, challenging their oppressors and trying to win a simple recognition from the West of their struggle. They were met with silence. President Obama’s message did not give them a single statement of sympathy, a single recognition of their cause, or a single reason to hope that the U.S. would provide them with the most minimal amount of support. Instead, they were greeted with a message that is being seen by many Iranians as sacrificing them upon the altar of “engagement.”
Iranians traditionally celebrate the Persian New Year with bonfires, dancing, music, firecrackers, and even the detonation of small, homemade explosives. All acts are acts of rebellion, meant to rattle the cage of the mullahs who try to label the Persia-era celebrations as “un-Islamic” and often spur political rallies. With the Iranian economy in a dire state, the regime knew this year’s Nowruz was going to be especially tough and prepared accordingly.
According to Iranians who sent me information and the videos posted at the end of this article, the regime issued stern warnings throughout the country that “obstructing roads, unconventional behavior, [and] using illegal [fire]crackers” were offenses warranting arrest. Extremist mullahs justified the regime’s martial law-like state, saying that “those who do not follow the norms have to be dealt with” and “bothersome traditions have to [be] called off.” One report sent to me by an Iranian quotes some mullahs as saying participants were acting in violation of Islam. Mullah Sadeqi of Birjand was quoted as saying, “People who talk of Islam should not participate in such ceremonies.”
The regime dispatched its security agents in huge numbers, putting tighter security measures into place for this holiday than ever before. In Mashhad, for example, one report said that over 1,790 government personnel were trained and put on alert for the event. The regime’s forces prevented gatherings, checked the phones of citizens at will, forced stores and schools to close, and arrested people en masse.