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Ancient, modern Iran clash over fire festival

Iranians will take to the streets to celebrate an ancient Iranian holiday, despite warnings by officials who are uncomfortable with this pre-Islamic holiday.
An Iranian woman jumps over a bonfire in southern Tehran on March 19, 2013 during the Wednesday Fire feast, or Chaharshanbeh Soori, held annually on the last Wednesday eve before the Spring holiday of Noruz. The Iranian new year that begins on March 20 coincides with the first day of spring during which locals revive the Zoroastrian celebration of lighting a fire and dancing around the flame. AFP PHOTO/BEHROUZ MEHRI        (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

Once again, the ancient Iranian festival Chaharshanbe Suri, the eve of the last Wednesday before the Iranian new year, was preceded by strong warnings from police and high-ranking officials. But the early celebrations and sound of firecrackers over the last week or so in the streets of Tehran and other large cities indicate people's intention to keep the festival alive.

On March 1, Taghi Mehri, head of the Tehran police's Prevention Unit, announced a prohibition of marking Chaharshanbe Suri. "Just like past years, police will take legal actions against those who bother people or block main streets," he said.

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