Newroz: From tradition to politics, why it is important to Kurds
Today in London, the Kurdish community gathered to celebrate Newroz, the Kurdish New Year, a tradition going across countries in Middle East and Central Asia. It coincides with the spring equinox of 21st of March and it is normally celebrated between the 18th and the 24th. It is the most important festival for Kurds. For the Kurdish community it is a celebration of their deliverance from a tyrant according to legend and for this very same reason is also seen as a symbol of support for the Kurdish cause.
The Kurds have been a highly persecuted,discriminated and isolated people and as they increasingly adopted this cross cultural tradition of the Middle East and Central Asia, it has also become a heavily politicised means of expression of their identity. In Turkey in particular, there is state censorship of Kurdish language, media and even the right for education. While in Middle Eastern countries where Newroz is celebrated it is a traditional festivity, for Kurds in Turkey and Kurdish communities around the world it is common to see flags depicting Abdullah Ocalan and in some cases (albeit not allowed in many Kurdish Newroz celebrations around the world, like in London for example) one can see PKK flags flying, which are quickly brought down by the authorities; the PKK has been long classed as a terrorist group , as the party, led by Ocalan, had taken to arms in Turkey in 1984, in the already ongoing struggle to establish Kurdistan as an independent state.While they gained a reputation as a force for the rights of Kurds, their actions have played them into being considered a terrorist group by the international community. Since his arrest in 1999, Ocalan has changed his ideology and has instead strived for a peaceful resolution of Kurdistan and its people's problems within Turkey. He also called for the establishing of a commission to investigate the PKK's own and also the Turkish forces' war crimes during this conflict and has stressed a democratic union within the area (Kurdistan, Turkey, Syria,Iran and Iraq).
Nevertheless, this is mainly a celebration of spring, a festivity where families and friends come together to celebrate the year that has passed and the year ahead, but given the opression of Kurds, it is near impossible to separate it from what it represents for the people; an opportunity to express their identity, cultureand make their voices be heard by the world.