A sombre Yalda celebration


Advertise with us

Yalda (also known as Chelle or Chellah) is an Iranian festival, celebrated in Iran and by Persians in other countries, is held on the winter solstice – the day of the longest night of the year. From this day forward the days will get progressively longer. Yalda marks the coming of the light, and, according to the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies, its origins date back more than 5,000 years.

On the evening of Dec. 21, Naomi and I joined many in the Iranian community, including those who live in River Heights, at the Caboto Centre in Winnipeg to be a part of the Yalda festival.

This year’s event was more sombre than usual, owing to the September beating death in Tehran of Mahsa Amini, a 21-year-old woman from Saqqez City in northwestern Iran, by Iran’s “morality police”, who said she was not properly wearing her hijab. Amini’s death has sparked protests all over Iran and Iranian police have put up to 30,000 protesters in jail, and more than 495 people have been killed. This protest, led by women, has continued. Many taking part do so because the Iranian regime is so terrible that they feel they have no other choice.

Supplied photo

River Heights MLA Jon Gerrard and his wife, Naomi, joined members of the local Iranian community at a Dec. 23 gathering at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in support of Iranians protesting the human rights abuses of the Iranian regime.

During the evening we listened to poems and to music and gazed at the flowers, pomegranates and candles adorning the stage. We talked of the rallying call for women in Iran — “Woman, Freedom, Life” — and listened to the song Baraye, which has become the musical rallying cry for the protests. Baraye – meaning “for” — is a list of reasons why people are protesting including “For dancing in the streets, For the fear when kissing (in public), For my sister, your sister, our sisters, … For the longing for a normal life…” The protests are a tribute to the extent to which women in Iran will go to achieve the freedom and the life they want.

It was an evening of solemn beauty. It was a lesson to all of the importance of human rights and freedoms. Toward the end of the evening, we were approached by several in the community to join them in a get-together in support of the people of Iran on Dec. 23 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. At 5 p.m. that day, we gathered in the Bonnie and John Buhler Hall to listen to a poem and a song and to think about the tragedies happening in Iran. We then walked up the alabaster-lined ramps to the Stuart Clark Garden of Contemplation on the third floor, where we stopped to ponder the unknowable – what the days ahead may bring for Iran.

We then went to the seventh floor. Each of us wrote out our feelings. I wrote of our support for the people of Iran, who are in a desperate struggle for freedom and democracy. Individually, we feel powerless to bring change, yet together we hope we can succeed. We then paused for the group photo shown with this article. Hopefully, this column will be a step in achieving greater awareness and understanding of what is happening in Iran today, why it is such a desperate struggle, and why freedom, democracy and human rights are so important.

Jon Gerrard

Jon Gerrard
River Heights constituency report

Jon Gerrard is Liberal MLA for River Heights.

Report Error Submit a Tip


Advertise With Us