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The 20th of March 2023 is this year’s annual celebration of Nowruz, also known as Iranian or Persian New Year.
Nowruz is celebrated by more than 300 million people every year in countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, the Kurdish regions of Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Azerbaijan, and many others throughout Asia. Unlike countries that celebrate the new year with the Gregorian calendar on the 1st of January, or the Lunar new year in February, Nowruz is typically celebrated between the 19th – 21st of March every year. In 2023, Nowruz falls on Monday 20th March at 9:24pm in the UK.
This celebration also coincides with the Spring Equinox, and for good reason! Nowruz in the Farsi language translates to “New Day”. The observance of Nowruz is all about the celebration of rebirth and the link between humans and nature. It occurs during spring when nature begins to bloom once again after a cold and dreary winter. It’s a two-week celebration of life that is spent visiting relatives, picnicking, and eating traditional foods.
Nowruz is a celebration that stretches back thousands of years to the days of Zoroastrianism (one of the world’s oldest religions) and the ancient Persian Empire. Its traditions are deeply rooted in the rich history of Iran.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that this year’s Nowruz celebrations will feel a little different, following the recent uprisings and conflicts in Iran and around the world. These uprisings started in the aftermath of Mahsa Amini’s death on the 16th of September 2022.
22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody after having been arrested by the “morality police” for allegedly violating Iran’s mandatory hijab law, by wearing her hijab “improperly” while visiting Tehran. According to eyewitnesses, she had been severely beaten by police officers. As the protests spread from Mahsa’s hometown throughout Iran and the rest of the world, the government responded with widespread internet blackouts, nationwide restrictions on social media usage, tear gas and gunfire.
One phrase you may have heard emerging from these protests is “Woman, Life, Freedom / Zan Zendegi Azadi”. This slogan represents what these protests are all about: women’s rights to fundamental human rights.
Videos have shown women defiantly setting their headscarves on fire and cutting their hair in public to chants of "Woman, Life, Freedom" and "Death to the dictator" - a reference to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In an unprecedented show of support, schoolgirls have been demonstrating in playgrounds and on the streets. Men and teenage boys have also participated in large numbers and backed the women's demands.
This year, Nowruz may not feel the same, but I’d like to wish everyone who celebrates Nowruz a happy new year – I hope that one day, our people will be free.
عید نوروز مبارک / Eid Nowruz Mubarak