Iranians Defy Ban on Traditional Festival

The challenges to government authority in Iran came from two sides on Wednesday. In the streets, people defied authorities to celebrate the traditional Feast of Fire, an originally Zoroastrian festival that has been banned since 1979. And in parliament, opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi challenged the authority of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei by giving a name to the new Iranian year—a prerogative normally reserved for the supreme leader. Despite Khamenei declaring that the festival “has no religious basis and is harmful and must be avoided,” people streamed into the streets, setting off firecrackers. The government hit back by making the police even more present than usual with officers going door to door warning residents that celebrations were banned. Some 50 people were reportedly arrested.