Mar 21, 2012

Iranian Kurdistan, Iraqi Kurdistan: Norouz Celebrations Display Unity

On March 20 more than 30 million Kurds celebrated Norouz, which has become a symbol for unity and political freedom.

Below is an article published by Radio Free Europe:

For the more than 30 million Kurds scattered across several countries including Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, Norouz has long been a symbol of their struggle for national identity and unity.

In Turkey, both the legal representatives of the Kurdish minority, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) called for large demonstrations for Newroz, as they spell the holiday, on March 21.

The celebration of Norouz was only legalized in Turkey in 2000 under pressure from the European Union. Turkish authorities also use a different spelling -- Nevruz -- and reclaimed it as a Turkish holiday.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government has also given some cultural rights to Kurds -- who form at least 20 percent of the population and will celebrate the holiday according to their own traditions.

The tensions surrounding the holiday in Turkey descended into violence on March 20 when Kurdish protesters clashed with police trying to prevent Norouz festivities in two southeastern towns. At least nine people were hurt when people in the Turkish capital, Istanbul, and another city tried to mark the holiday.

But many Kurds will be looking toward the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan, where President Massoud Barzani will be making his annual Nowruz address on March 21.

Iraqi Kurds suffered decades of murderous repression under Saddam Hussein, but even the Iraqi dictator stopped short of banning Norouz. He instead declared an official "Day of the Tree" on March 21.