Messages by foreign officials and Iranian activists to mark Nowruz, the Persian new year, are mainly addressed to women in Iran who are leading antiregime protests since September.
US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hosted a ceremony at the White House for the occasion on Monday and issued a statement that acknowledged Iranians' revolt for freedom.
“This year, Nowruz comes at a difficult time for many families, when hope is needed more than ever—including for the women of Iran who are fighting for their human rights and fundamental freedoms,” the Bidens said, vowing that Washington would “stand with them, and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their conviction and courage.”
“And together with our partners, we will continue to hold Iranian officials accountable for their attacks against their people,” the statement added. President Biden said, “It’s the start of a new year that reminds us of the hope that lies ahead – even in the darkest of times.”
Secretary Of State Antony J. Blinken also decried the “brutal crackdown at the hands of the Islamic Republic," noting that “Many families face an empty chair at their Nowruz table this year, as friends and family members have been killed or detained by Iranian authorities.”
Member of the European Parliament Charlie Weimers, who has been very active to garner European leaders’ support for the protests in Iran, issued a video message wishing that “light truly overcomes darkness,” in reference to popular movement against the Islamic Republic.
Exactly at 54 minutes, 28 seconds past midnight Tehran time on March 21, the ancient Nowruz festivities began, but this year many families are bitter over the loss of a loved one or distressed by the imprisonment of a relative. Immediately after the turn of the year, many Iranians chanted slogans against the regime and its leaders with activists and celebrities releasing Nowruz messages that wished for an end to the Islamic Republic this year.
Many Iranians put pictures of those killed during the anti-regime protests and colored eggs with “Woman, Life, Freedom” slogan in their “Haft-Seen” tables. According to videos on social media, people held gatherings to keep the flame of protests burning in many cities, including Kurdish-majority city of Sanandaj, Mahabad, Bukan and Piranshahr in West Azarbaijan province, and Saqqez, the hometown of Mahsa “Jina” Amini, whose death in police custody ignited the nationwide rallies.
Prominent dissident figures, such as exiled prince Reza Pahlavi, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, Sunni leader Mowlavi Abdolhamid and footballer-turned-activist Ali Karimi as well as Canada-based activist Hamed Esmaeilion also talked about the political upheaval in the country, reiterating their demands for justice and calls for regime change.
"I congratulate the proud nation of Iran on the arrival of the new year. I hope that in the new year, poverty, injustice and discrimination will disappear from the country, political prisoners will be released and the noble nation of Iran will regain its rightful place in the world and achieve its rightful demands,” Abdolhamid tweeted.
In his video message addressed to the people of Iran, Pahlavi said, "In this year, you created an epic in the name of women, in the name of life and in the name of freedom against one of the most oppressive regimes in history... you made the world admire your courage and greatness.”
Several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, echoed the sentiment, issuing messages in honor of those who were killed or arrested during their fights against the violations by the Islamic Republic.