Iranian families celebrated the ancient Spring Picnic Day (Sizdabedar) on Sunday despite the government’s closure of some parks and Ramadhan restrictions.
“Out of respect for the month of Ramadan,” authorities closed parks and blocked roads to northern forests and other locations where people traditionally picnic on this day but videos posted on social media show huge crowds singing and dancing despite the restrictions and even chasing away the government-sponsored vigilantes from their picnic grounds.
In the city of Qazvin, capital of Qazvin province, for instance, the municipality said parks were closed until five in the afternoon, an hour and a half before iftar (the end of fasting day) “for the comfort of citizens and respect for Ramadhan.”
Armed police attacking merrymaking people with tear gas in northern Iran.
Parks were also closed in several other cities including the religious city of Qom and Rasht in Gilan province where many have flocked for the holidays. Even some museums and sightseeing locations were closed for the day in some places such as Kermanshah in western Iran.
Such restrictions did very little to stop people from gathering and dancing wherever they could but at least in one place, on the road to the touristic village of Masouleh in the forested northern mountains of the Caspian Sea region, armed police tried to disperse the merrymaking crowds with tear gas. Social media users said in Tehran the Basij militia tried to prevent people from entering some parks, but the crowds were too big and they had to give way.
This year, many women have taken the opportunity of the secular Nowrouz holiday season to demonstrate their opposition to the government by flouting their hijab and dancing in public as civil disobedience.
Authorities, who have been rattled by mass defiance, responded by shutting down businesses, hotels, cafes and restaurants where “hijabless” women were offered services or sang and danced, often alongside men. In some cases, such as at Kermanshah’s Taq Bostan historical site, authorities prevented “hijabless” women from entering.
People including “hijabless” women celebrating Sidebedar in Rasht in northern Iran
The 13th day of the holidays is called Sizdebedar, or more correctly Sizdah be Dar (casting off [the inauspiciousness] of thirteen].
The regime reluctantly tolerates some of the country’s ancient festivals such as the New Year (Nowruz) and other occasions such as Charshanbeh Souri (Last Tuesday of the old year) and Sizdebedar due to their extreme popularity. Nevertheless, after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 it renamed Sizdebedar as Nature Day because the religious establishment particularly opposed the “superstition” implied by it.
People chasing away government sponsored vigilantes in Anzali from their picnic site.
People should not remain home on this day to avoid the inauspiciousness of the number thirteen according to a tradition of obscure origins. So, they will go out and picnic wherever they can with food and music and dancing.
But this year, the Iranian New Year holidays (Nowrouz) coincided with the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
In Iran and some other Islamic countries eating, drinking, and smoking in public are strictly banned during the fasting month. Many Iranians who fast during Ramadan, and many others who do not, nevertheless, believe that such restrictions are pointless and even unfair.