Iranian New Year

Three years previously, when thousands of Iranians gathered on Los Angeles Westwood Boulevard to celebrate their New Year, altercations broke out over the flags hanging from storefronts. Many expatriate Iranians show commitment to the Old Iranian flag, which is red, white and green with a golden lion and sun. To them, the old flag symbolizes an Iranian birthright that is thousands of years old.

Others consider that hanging the old flag is a political statement, dismissive of the new government and its Islamic flag. Still others hold that the New Year is a cultural celebration and that arguments over politics should be avoided. Every year, on the Sunday after the Iranian New Year, the city blocks off a section of Westwood Boulevard, the equivalent area that is famous for its rows of Iranian book and music shops, restaurants, travel agencies and other area of expertise stores. Thousands come from all over to see one another, to dance and listen to music and to welcome in the New Year with fellow Iranians.

As a result of the disagreements, and smooth physical assaults that occurred, the following year, in 2008, the annual New Year celebration was cancelled. It was blamed on those who wanted to control the juncture with their political agendas. Then last year, festival coordinators agreed to bring back the event, but to make it a strategy to leave politics out. Memos spread throughout the group of people, particularly addressing storeowners, stating that no observable political statements could be made, with a flag or otherwise. And accordingly, Iranians draped the thoroughfare with flags that were red, white and bottle green and blank in the middle.