On April 2, Iranians celebrated Sizdeh Bedar as they do every year, a popular holiday that has survived despite the Islamic republic’s attempts to get rid of it. Men and women danced and sang songs to keep this centuries-old tradition alive, but also to defy the regime and its draconian laws.
Sizdeh Bedar takes place on the 13th day of Norooz festivities, which mark the Persian New Year. On this day, Iranians celebrate nature by going to parks or to the countryside, where they spend the day having fun.
This video was filmed in Fasham, in the suburbs of Tehran on April 2. 
This pagan celebration isn’t quite to the taste of the Islamic republic’s leaders. For years, the authorities tried to outlaw it entirely. However, it was so deeply anchored in Persian culture that the regime finally backed off. Still, this does not stop Iran’s vice squads from cracking down on too-loose hijabs and other “non-Islamic behaviour” during the festivities.
Sizdeh Bedar is celebrated all over the country – even in prisons. Last year, former journalists and political activists incarcerated at Gohardasht, near Tehran, danced in the middle of the prison yard and sang “Ey Iran”, an old Iranian hymn. The prison guards did not interfere.

"There is a big police presence, but the regime prefers to avoid any confrontation"

Sussan (not her real name) is a journalist in Tehran. Every year, like millions of Iranians, she celebrates Sizdeh Bedar.
For me, Sizdeh Bedar is a very important celebration because it’s an old tradition. On that day, my family and I go to Jamshidieh park, which is north of Tehran. We meet up with other families there to sign, dance, eat, and play.
It’s a way to celebrate nature, but also, in a way, to resist against the regime. Normally, in Iran, it is illegal to sing and dance. But the authorities can’t stop us on this day, when millions of Iranians engage in these activities all at once. Even though there’s a big police presence, including notably anti-riot police, the regime prefers to avoid any confrontation.
Sizdeh Bedar is very different than Chaharshanbe Suri. [Editor’s Note: This is a celebration that takes place on the last Tuesday of the year. On that day, Iranians put up decorations and lights and build big bonfires in public squares, over which they take turns jumping.] Chaharshanbe Suri is officially banned. However, many people still celebrate it, and this sometimes leads to clashes with the authorities.