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Iranians celebrate fire festival before Persian New Year

March 13, 2012 |  3:53 pm

Iranfirefestival

Every day on WorldNow, we choose a stunning photo from around the world. Today our eyes were drawn to this glowing shot of Chaharshanbeh Souri, or Red Wednesday, a fire festival that is celebrated before the end of the Persian calendar year.

In Tehran, people lighted firecrackers and leapt over bonfires, shouting, “Give me your red color, take my yellow one” -- red meaning health and yellow meaning sickness.

The celebration has been frowned upon in the past: Iranian authorities were wary of the festival two years ago when opposition activists tried to capitalize on the nighttime revelry for protests. Fundamentalists have tried to stamp out the festival because of its ties to faiths predating Islam.

No protests were evident this year after a tight clampdown that has crippled the opposition that once rose up against the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran gave stern warnings about safety as the holiday began. Government placards tied to Tehran lampposts Tuesday enjoined Iranians to be mindful of safety regulations as people jumped over raging bonfires and set off fireworks. The semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency reported one person was killed and 74 people were wounded in the festivities, including 42 people who were hospitalized with burns.

Iranians also were warned that vandals would be detained. Riot police lined Revolution Square near Tehran University as evening fell. 

“The heavy presence of police makes the youth more angry,” one young man said in a taxicab as the city grew dark. “It makes the youth more agitated to brave them, to do something to make them angry.”

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-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: An Iranian woman holds a sparkler in Tehran on Tuesday during festivities for Chaharshanbeh Souri, held before the Persian New Year. Credit: Atta Kenare / AFP/Getty Images

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