Turkey bans Newroz celebrations for Syrian Kurds in Afrin

Turkey bans Newroz celebrations for Syrian Kurds in Afrin
Turkey is attempting to prevent Syrians in Afrin from celebrating Newroz, the Kurdish new year, local sources said.
3 min read
17 March, 2019
Newroz is celebrated worldwide by Kurds, Iranians, Central Asians and others [AFP]

Turkey is making efforts to stop Syrians in Afrin from celebrating Newroz, the Kurdish new year, local sources said on Saturday.

Turkish authorities in the northern province distributed a notice in Turkish and Arabic saying that Newroz was not an official public holiday and, as such, citizens would not be permitted to celebrate in any way.

"An Arab activist who took part in organising a large celebration of Nowruz in Efrin told me the Turks refused to give them permission to hold it," tweeted researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov.

Kurdish celebrations of Newroz in Turkey are a highly contentious issue as the Turkish government often views the festivities as a manifestation of separatist nationalism.

Turkey sometimes bans celebrations in different cities, such as in Istanbul and Ankara in 2016, and tens of arrests were made at Newroz festivities across the country last year.

Turkey has been fighting a prolonged on-off civil war with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish separatist organisation, since the early 1980s.

Although Turkey has liberalised the treatment of the Kurdish population in some ways since current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan became prime minister, more than a decade ago, the past five years have witnessed a severe deterioration in relations, with many Kurdish-majority towns subject to months-long curfews and military campaigns.

The notice declared that Syrians in Afrin would not be allowed to hold protests and marches to celebrate the holiday on 21 March or any other day, nor would they be permitted to burn tires.

A key element of Newroz celebrations for the Kurdish people is to light and jump over a fire.

The Newroz fire is said to be a symbol of defiance and triumph over evil, and for Kurds, it has become a symbol of freedom against oppression. 

Kurdish-Syrian journalist Sardar Mlla Drwish tweeted: "The Syrian opposition in Afrin announced a ban on Kurd’s celebrating Newroz as the national Kurdish holiday.

"The Syrian regime was unable to prevent the Kurds despite its attempts."

Syrian regime forces opened fire on Kurds celebrating Newroz in both 1986 and 2005, killing multiple people both years.

Turkey has been viewed as an "occupying" force by many Kurds in Afrin after it helped its Syrian rebel allies take control of the province in 2018 as part of its Operation "Olive Branch" to oust Syrian Kurdish forces from northern Syria.

Newroz, also known as Iranian new year, has its origins in Iranian and Zoroastrian cultures and is celebrated by Kurds and Iranians, as well as multiple nations in the Caucasus and Central Asia.