Persian New Year's Partiers Defy Mullahs; Media Snoozes

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.

The Iranian people stood firm, often clashing with the security forces. In Tehran, protesters were seen burning pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic; Ayatollah Khamenei, the current supreme leader; and President Ahmadinejad. One unverified report said the regime deployed 5,000 personnel in response.

In Kermanshah, approximately 500 people were arrested by security forces who were met with chants of "death to the clerical rule." In Bandar Abbas, the words "long live freedom" were spray-painted on the ground. The regime's actions were met with heavy resistance, with some reports of homemade explosives being thrown at the attacking forces. In a strong testament to the power of a determined people, security personnel were even forced to retreat in Karaj, Tehran, Astara, and other cities. Throughout Iran, the chants of slogans like "death to dictatorship" were commonplace, with each chant shaking the very ground the regime stands on.

The Iranian people are fighting for a voice and are searching for people in the West to make sure their struggle is not in vain. The fact that such reports, photos, and videos are being sent to me, a 22-year-old writer who spends far too much time jamming on Guitar Hero, reflects the sad reality of American inattention to those fighting for our principles in places where we are unwilling to do so.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has praised the videotaped message sent to the mullahs, saying, "President Obama's outreach to the people of Iran marks a new beginning on the first day of this new season. We must all work together to define our relationship not by our differences, as the president has said, but by what we share in common."

With this press release, Speaker Pelosi has failed to see this message for what it is: a message to the Iranian leadership, not to the Iranian people. Their problems went unmentioned, their struggle went unacknowledged, and their fight for freedom is being disregarded as the U.S. seeks to strike a deal with the mullahs with the naive belief that they will somehow treat us better than they treat their own people. The Iranian people will not view this message as one of respect, but as one of betrayal.

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