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Newroz, symbol of resistance against oppression


Standpoint of Turkey

Newroz, symbol of resistance against oppression
Irfan Babaoglu

Photos : Céline Pierre-Magnani


Irfan Babaoglu

Kurdish writer from Turkey

According to Irfan Babaoglu, Newroz is "the symbol of the revolt against oppression." In this article, he explains that the uprising against the ancient Assyrian state - symbolized by the feast of Newroz - was the founding element of Kurdish identity and opened the way for other peoples of the region like the Parthians, the Armenians, Persians and Arabs to affirm their own identities. For this reason, he says that this festival is celebrated by all peoples of the region. Newroz would be "the symbol of the resistance of the peoples."

Newroz has a place in the formation of the Kurdish identity. With their present day name the Kurdish people, were subject to external pressure long before attaining this identity in Mesopotamia in the last stages of Neolithic societies. The Assyrian state had dominated all the people in the region, including the Medes, and had not given the Kurdish people a chance to live.

In that period, by revolting against oppression under the leadership of Kyaksar, a Mede clans horde, they were at the same time laying the foundations of today’s Kurdish identity. This struggle took place two thousand and five hundred years, and it has gone down in history with The Legend of Kawa.

This historical success was registered as a new day, a new beginning. This success did not only lay the foundations of Kurdish national identity, peoples in the region such as Parthians, Armenians, Persians, Arabs, after the collapse of the Assyrian state, made a move in the direction of their own national identity. That is why the Newroz Festival is being celebrated with joy and enthusiasm by all the peoples of the region.

Maybe the Kurdish people had a state for a short period of time 2 500 years ago. However, it created a development that will leave its imprint for many years and centuries with the Kurdish identity and with Kurdish Culture. This was much more important. Mesopotamia, where Kurdistan is located, was subject to external pressures such as occupation, invasion for centuries. But Kurdish identity has nevertheless continued to exist. In order to keep their identity, the Kurds have preferred to live in the mountains. During times of persecution, they withdrew to the mountains and kept their identity to the price of being excluded from civilization.

In the last forty years, the Kurdish people have taken action again for their language, culture and identity. They did not feel secure about their existence within the Turkish Republic. The Kurdish people, who have not been able to make a place for itself and preserve its identity among countries that dissolved-assimilated it, have engaged a struggle to preserve their identity with a historical reflex.

Today more than ever the Kurdish people defend their language, insistently voice their desire to have education in that language. Because, despite a good deal of progress that has been made and the sacrifices that have been made, the assimilation policy is still progressing in its usual pace. Language, culture and identity genocide are still perpetuated in subtle and rough ways. The identity of the Kurdish people whose population corresponds to millions, does not have legal and constitutional security either. When we consider this situation, it bears a great deal of importance to stand up for and to protect one’s language and culture.

For the last fifteen years the Kurdish movement has been struggling to protect the language, to allow it to develop and to make it a language of education. It has been trying to improve its language through its own institutions without waiting for the government’s permission and approval. They establish language schools. They strive to create an enthusiasm for the language and to make it the language of politics and the language of the bazaar within daily life. Notwithstanding that, schools that teach lessons at primary school level in three cities. These school that do not have a formal basis and “legal and constitutional security”, are able to pursue their goals completely with the resources provided by Kurdish institutions of education and thanks to the work volunteer educators.

At the same time, these practical steps create alternative models of education. On the other hand, it is expected that, by pressuring government, the possibility of education in the mother-tongue will be provided through state financial resources.

In the last two years we have seen more resolution processes more than any other period so far. In this context, the demand for education in the mother-tongue is also the keyword for the resolution process. The Kurdish people know that education in the mother-tongue is directly tied to the Kurdish identity, so they believe no resolution process can be lasting unless this demand is met.

At the root of Kobanê resistance lies the national identity reflex. Isis was made to engage attacks against the Kurdish people by taking support from Turkey primarily, and many other powers within and outside the region. For the dominant forces the failure of Kobanê means the failure of all the Rojava cantons. And this would be the defeat of the ascending Kurdish struggle for independence.

Just like it happened in the Kobanê resistance, the Kurdish people have paid terrible prices for their language and freedom.  Therefore, the Kurdish people see the freedom of their language as a main motive.

However, what is being discussed here is not merely the language and emancipation of the Kurdish people. The Kurdish movement is the vindicator of the liberalized identity of all peoples and minorities. It argues for the right of all peoples, nations and minorities, to be able to experience their own individual and collective rights without boundaries. In this context, Newroz represents identity of being and resistance for all peoples.

Newroz 2015, Diyarbakır. Photos and captions : Céline Pierre-Magnani

  • 1
    - March, 20. Preparations for night marches in the streets of Diyarbakir (Amed in Kurdish) on the eve of Newroz.
  • 2
    - Night marches in the streets of Diyarbakir.
  • 3
    - March 21. Gathering to celebrate Newroz in Diyarbakir (Amed).
  • 4
    - The inscription "Azadi" ("Freedom" in Kurdish), is one of the main demands of the Kurdish people for their imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan
  • 5
    - Despite the cold and rain, tens of thousands of people were present on the main square of the event.
  • 6
    - Gültan Kisanak, one of the main figures of the HDP-DBP and co-mayor of Diyarbakir, joined in the festivities.
  • 7
    - "Freedom for Ocalan". Several hundred people participate in a protest march for the release of Ocalan by linking the border town of Cizre in Diyarbakir.
  • 8
    - Overview of the main plaza where the rally takes place. Green-yellow-red flags stand for Kurdish colors.
  • 9
    - Celebration of Newroz. Main square.
  • 10
    - The marchers coming from Cizre to demand the release of Ocalan are greeted by cheers.
  • 11
    - Traditional dances Govend.
  • 12
    - Traditional dances Govend and flag representing Abdullah Ocalan.
  • 13
    - On the sidelines of the esplanade, the improvised street vendors sell all kinds of sandwiches and hot drinks.
  • 14
    - The green-yellow-red flags colors recall the Kurds Kurdish political demands.
  • 15
    - Around the stage, portraits in tribute to the fallen on the battlefields.
  • 16
    - Sırrı Süreyya Önder, one of the most popular figures of the HDP, the reader of the awaited statement written by leader Abdullah Ocalan.
  • 17
    - Many women have put on the khaki Kurdish fighters, recalling the commitment of women in Kobanê and Rojova.



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