The Iranian government tried hard again this year to stop Iranians from celebrating "Chaharshanbehi Suri," the ancient Zoroastrian Festival of Fire. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a decree calling the festivities un-Islamic and urged Iranians to avoid participating in the bon-fires and fire-works that distinguish the feast.
In addition, the regime deployed hundreds of security forces in Tehran to discourage large gatherings in the streets. Still, many residents managed to jump over fires in a salute to the triumph of goodness, health and light over the darkness of sickness and suffering.
The Iranian government also took additional steps in its continuing campaign to extinguish the flames of political opposition that have been smoldering since Iran's disputed presidential election last June. The government-supported Fars News Agency reported that 86 detainees who were arrested following anti-government protests have been found guilty of charges against the Islamic Republic. The charges include plotting against national security, spreading propaganda against the government, and taking part in illegal demonstrations.
In addition, Iranian authorities announced that 6 people arrested during the Ashura demonstrations in December and convicted of the so-called crime of warring against God, have been sentenced to death. Two men, accused of the same crime after grossly unfair judicial proceedings, were hanged in January.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley deplored the repressive measures of the Iranian government:
"We condemn the execution of political prisoners and we urge the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, and call on the Iranian government to respect the civil rights of its people. Under Iran's own laws, all detainees are entitled to due process. The right to a fair and public hearing is embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a treaty ratified by Iran."
"If the Iranian government wants the respect of the international community," said Mr. Crowley, "it must respect the rights of its people."