by Julie Jigsawnovich
Today many Iranians celebrate Chahar Shanbeh Soori, an ancient Persian fire ritual which pre-dates Islam. Celebrations related to Zoroastrian religion and the cultures that have existed in Iran since long before Arabs invaded carry political connotations--especially in the current political atmosphere, when members of Iran's government are seeking to increase ties with Arab Islamic countries. Celebrating Persian history and culture is becoming increasingly controversial in the Islamic Republic.
Although the traditional Chahar Shanbeh Soorihe festivities include jumping over bonfires, the above photo reflects support for Iran's Green Movement, with the "V" for victory in green fire. The Green Movement includes Iranians of many different faiths, including Islam, Zoroastrianism, and others, as well as atheists and agnostics. Some Green Movement members support the current form of Iranian government and seek to reform or transform some laws, while others seek to create a different form of government for Iran, especially one that separates religion and government. Most Iranians I've spoken with feel that this separation is important, either because they say the religious laws are too restrictive, or because they feel that mixing government with religion corrupts the religion. Even some religious clerics, such as Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, condemned religious dictatorship.
For more information about Chahar Shanbeh Soori, see: http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/about_cais.htm
Pictures of dictators on fire - Iran 16 March 2010