Iranian security forces turned out in large numbers on the streets of Tehran March 16 to prevent possible opposition protests during a national festival. Iranians are celebrating Chahar-Shanbe Suri, a ceremony held ahead of the Persian New Year, Nowruz. People turned out on smaller neighborhood streets to light bonfires and set off fireworks, but news agencies reported that Tehran’s main thoroughfares and squares were largely deserted except for police.
Since the unrest following last summer’s disputed elections, opposition supporters have used public events to stage protests. Ahead of the new year festivities, Tehran police chief Gen. Hossein Sajedinia told the ISNA news agency his forces were deployed to prevent “any event in the city.” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also urged Iranians not to celebrate, calling the festival un-Islamic. (RFE/RL, March 16)
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