Thursday, 18 March 2010

Celebrating Iranian New Year in Barnet - can we?

Last week I had a walk in Moat Mount open space. Most enjoyable. Coming through the picnic area I remembered that Barnet council will probably declare this area out of bounds in a few days time.

In recent years, Barnet's biggish Iranian community has tried to mark the last day of its fortnight-long New Year festival with a picnic in Moat Mount and other parks around the borough. But, because of the amount of rubbish they generate, and their habit of having barbecues, the council has become very antsy and now declares the parks closed.

For Iranians, going for a picnic on Sizdah Be-dar (the 13th day) is their way of seeing out the old year. Not allowing for this practice is like telling Anglo-Saxon Brits they can't get pissed and reel around central London on the night of 31 December.

There have been attempts by the Iranian community to negotiate with the council and local police about facilitating the practice, but these have come to nothing. I think the council should try again. The point is sharpened by this news item on special waste collections for the Jewish community over Passover. I don't resent that, although it undoubtedly costs the borough extra.

I wouldn't resent the council allowing Iranians (and Kurds and Afghanis, whose New Year is at the same time) to use the borough's parks for their New Year picnic. Disposing of the additional waste (for at most a couple of days) would cost the borough extra, but in the great scheme of things it must be small beer. And it would stop a significant part of the community being treated as pariah once a year.

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