Iranian ayatollah calls for fewer holidays

Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi has criticized the number of holidays in Iran, urging the government to take action to decrease breaks.

al-monitor Iranian women take a selfie on the seafront in Iran's southern resort island of Kish, Iran, Nov. 1, 2016. Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images.
Rohollah Faghihi

Rohollah Faghihi

@FaghihiRohollah

Topics covered

iranian society, mahmoud ahmadinejad, global economy, ali khamenei, iranian economy, calendar, nowruz, holiday

Mar 29, 2017

Iran's relatively large number of holidays have long been a point of contention in the country, although many Iranians don’t hesitate to seize every chance to pack their bags and leave urban sprawls for nature. But now, clerics and a number of politicians are increasingly speaking out against what they deem excessive breaks, saying that the holidays harm the country. Added to the mix is the asymmetry of the Iranian week compared with the rest of the world. While Western states and most Eastern countries count Saturday and Sunday as the weekend, in Iran, only Friday is a day off, with many offices semi-operational on Thursday. As such, the Iranian economy is disconnected from the world for at least three days of the week.

Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, a powerful cleric based in the holy city of Qom, is among the prominent figures who have repeatedly urged the government and parliament to decrease the number of holidays.

“The developed countries don’t have [an excessive number of] holidays, and this is one of the problems of the country,” said Makarem Shirazi on March 29, in reference to the ongoing 13-day holiday marking the Iranian New Year, or Nowruz, which began March 21.

Noting the extensive Nowruz holiday, the senior cleric added, “The New Year is named as ‘Resistance Economy: Production and Employment,’ but is it possible to create jobs and to produce by only three or four months of work [a year]?”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gives each year a name to set the establishment’s broader priorities and goals. In keeping with this tradition, the supreme leader named the current Iranian year “Resistance Economy: Production and Employment.”

Demanding that scholars conduct thorough research on the impact of Iranian holidays on the country, Makarem Shirazi said, “If your life span is 70 years, your useful lifetime should be 20 years. [Thus] should you not think about how you have used your lifetime?”

During his term as president (2005-2013), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad advocated an increase in the number of holidays and emphasized the necessity of absorbing Thursday into the weekend. This wish didn’t come true, as experts argued that it would further distance the Iranian economy from the world.

However, in keeping with Ahmadinejad's populist strategy, his government frequently proclaimed the days that fell between two consecutive holidays as days off, which often prompted a backlash among scholars and experts.

Iran, which celebrates ancient Persian, Islamic and national holidays, officially has over two dozen holidays. However, according to a report published on conservative news site Tabnak, which is close to former presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai, if weekends are taken into account, Iranians have some 150 days off per year.

At present, the moderate administration of President Hassan Rouhani is rumored to be considering Saturday as a new day off, along with Friday. However, this idea has met with opposition from figures such as Ali Motahari, the outspoken deputy speaker of parliament.

In other news, Hossein Sheikhol-Islam, an adviser to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, has spoken about the potential Russian use of an Iranian base to conduct airstrikes in Syria.

“Russia’s use of the [Shahid] Nojeh base [last year] was a logical major decision, as the Syrian air force is not [sufficiently] equipped, and we needed a strong and more effective air force in order to decrease the casualties in the field,” Sheikhol-Islam said on March 28, adding that Moscow's use of the air base was conditional upon there being consensus on the targets.

Editor's note: This article has been updated since its initial publication.

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