Nowruz street banners are returning to Beverly Hills to celebrate the Persian New Year and are bringing with them an important political statement.
For the past four years the non-profit Farhang Foundation has partnered with the city to mount Nowruz banners in recognition of Beverly Hills’ significant Iranian population. This year, those banners will also express a message of solidarity with women fighting for their rights in Iran.
Mayor Lili Bosse and Councilmember Lester Friedman, the liaisons to the Rodeo Drive Special Events Holiday Program Committee, approved the banner plan with an approximate $23,000 budget at a Dec. 19 meeting. The plan will come before the full City Council for a final sign off in an upcoming meeting.
The 2023 banner was dreamed up by artist Rashin Kheiriyeh, who won the Farhang Foundation’s annual design competition. Her rendering features a female silhouette and Farsi calligraphy accompanied by the words “women, life, freedom” – a prominent chant from the ongoing protest movement in Iran.
“In her (Kheiriyeh’s) mind, this year in addition to celebrating Nowruz, she also wanted to acknowledge and amplify the voice of Iranian women,” said Alireza Ardekani, executive director of Farhang Foundation, in the committee meeting. “That’s why the main figure is a figure of a female with her hair flowing in the wind.”
The Nowruz banners will not only have greater significance than in years past, but they will also be featured more prominently.
The current plan ups the banner count from 52 to 89, so banners can be displayed in the business triangle in addition to the traditional locations on Santa Monica Blvd. and Wilshire Blvd., Community Outreach Manager Stephanie Harris said. They are slated to be hung from the beginning of February 2023 to March 20, which is the day of Nowruz.
Mayor Lilli Bosse, who has been an outspoken supporter of the Iranian women’s movement, was firmly in favor of this year’s banner design and plan.
“I think these banners are beautiful and I’m thrilled that we are expanding them,” she said. “You have my beyond enthusiastic support and I look forward to seeing them throughout our community.”
The City of Beverly Hills has long celebrated its Iranian residents, but attention to this segment of the local population increased following the death of 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in September.
Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for allegedly wearing her headscarf too loosely and her death in custody sparked international outrage about the rights of Persian women.
A rally in Beverly Hills was held on Nov. 3 and attracted around several thousand Iranian protesters and allies, according to police estimates. Among the crowd was Mayor Bosse and the entire City Council.
And, in October, both the City Council and the School Board Unified School District Board of Education approved resolutions condemning the actions of the Iranian government’s morality police and calling on the United Nations and US government to act.
The banners serve as a reminder of that message, while also celebrating the possibility of the new year and beginning of spring.
“I really feel that we as a community, we as a city, have been at the forefront of showing our support,” said Bosse. “Nowruz being the new year, being the first day of spring, gives us hope, which I believe we all need now.”