Iranian people are attending in a park during the Sizdah Bedar, also known as Nature's Day, in the fasting month of Ramadan in northern Tehran, Iran April 1, 2024.

Iranians Defy Regime’s Clampdown On Annual Spring Picnic Tradition

Tuesday, 04/02/2024

The regime’s multiple efforts to stop the public from celebrating the ancient Spring Picnic Day (Sizdah Be-dar) on Monday, were met with defiance by many Iranians.

The Iranian authorities’ actions come as the Islamic month of Ramadan and the death anniversary of the first Imam coincided with the Persian New Year celebration of Sizdah Be-dar.

After contradictory statements from the government ahead of the holiday, authorities blocked access to parks and roads to recreational spots around rivers and lakes and forests, using concrete blocks and heaps of earth – common picnic locations where Iranians usually gather on this day.

In some places police also actively interfered with those who had ventured out to picnic despite the warnings and even clashed with them. A video posted on social media shows the police using tear gas to disperse the picnickers in Masouleh. Infuriated Iranians in the touristic town in northern Iran eventually drove them out by booing and shouting “scoundrels” at them.

Police are booed after firing tear gas at picnickers in Masouleh.

Although the Sizdah Be-dar picnic is traditionally celebrated during daytime, Iranians in some areas waited until the evening to get out, as authorities had announced that parks and public gardens would be open after iftar – the evening time of breaking the fast.

Iranian youths are eating ice cream while they are standing together outside a park during the Sizdah Bedar, also known as Nature's Day, in the fasting month of Ramadan in northern Tehran, Iran April 1, 2024.

At Tehran’s Gheytarieh Park the police assaulted street musicians who were playing music and took them away while angry people booed them.

Police forcefully remove street musicians from Gheytarieh Park in Tehran.

In many areas the Basij paramilitary and vigilantes patrolled the picnic spots in vehicles, playing loud mourning songs on megaphones to intimidate and threaten the picnickers to leave the area. A video posted on social media shows them threatening picnickers at a beach in Langaroud in northern Iran with one of them shouting “This is the city of Imam Hussain, pick up your stuff and leave” into a megaphone.

Paramilitary Basijis threatening picnickers in Langaroud in northern Iran

The 13th and final day of the Persian New Years holidays is called Sizdah Be-dar and is always celebrated with a picnic. Sizdah Be-dar is often thought to mean “casting off [the inauspiciousness] of thirteen]” but can also mean “spending the thirteenth in the valleys”.

Video sent to Iran International shows a police car blocking the road to a picnic spot.

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the regime has reluctantly tolerated the country’s ancient New Year (Norouz) festival which is celebrated on the day of the Spring Equinox. But the religious establishment has been against the celebration of others such as Charshanbeh Souri bonfire night on the last Tuesday of the old year and Sizdah Be-dar. Authorities, accordingly, have often tried to prevent these festivities, both of which are celebrated outdoors joyfully by Iranians.

Islamists play loud mourning songs on a road in the northern province of Gilan.

To the regime, Chaharshanbeh Suri is viewed as a pagan relic because of its association with fire and Sizdah Be-dar, which was renamed as Nature Day after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, promotes superstition.

Be that as it may, the celebration of Sizdah Be-dar is so popular that it has remained a public holiday in the official calendar as most Iranians, even many religious families, have not forsaken their beloved ancient and pre-Islamic festivals and continue to celebrate them, sometimes even alongside religious occasions.

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