Controversy over the celebration of Norooz, the Iranian New Year, at the site of Persepolis in Shiraz continues to divide the Islamic Republic establishment, causing extreme internal tension in the upper echelons of power.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards commanders have expressed antagonism against the ceremony planned at Persepolis, the ruins of the Achamenid Palace in Shiraz. But today, Ayatollah Mohieddin Haeri Shirazi, a member of the Assembly of Experts announced that the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has approved the plan.
The festivities, which have been organized by the office of the president, have attracted the criticism of Islamic Republic hardliners who maintain that celebrating at Persepolis would be an unwise reminder of the celebrations held there in 1973 by the last Iranian monarch, marking 2,500 years of monarchy in Iran.
The president’s office has announced through its website for Norooz celebrations that the Supreme Leader’s approval means there is no room for argument and the festivities in Persepolis will go on as planned.
Brigadier-General Gholam Gheiratparvar, a Fars province Revolutionary Guard commander, told a reporter in Shiraz that he has “an ominous feeling of threat” about holding a music festival in Shiraz and called for cancellation of the Norooz program there.
“At the start of the New Year, instead of bringing people closer to our martyrs and their ideals, you want to take them toward national festivals,” Gheiratparvar said. “We will certainly not allow the dark memory of the 2,500 years of monarchy celebrations to be renewed in Fars.”
According to Fars news agency, a number of student organizations have also announced their intention to counter the Norooz festivities in Persepolis with a “march in shrouds.”
The Norooz celebrations planned for Shiraz have also drawn the fire of a number of local clergy members, but the Governor of Fars has called on everyone to “respect the pure traditions of Norooz.”
Norooz, which dates back thousands of years before the arrival of Islam in Iran, has been cause for deep rifts in the Islamic Republic establishments. The Islamic government has never been able to uproot this event. This year, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s plan to celebrate Norooz in full regalia at Persepolis has re-awakened the divisions of nationalism and religion that have split Iran since the arrival of Islam.