DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Kurdistan24) - Turkey's second largest opposition group, the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) appealed to authorities on Thursday not to ban the Kurdish new year of Newroz that is to be celebrated later this month.
Speaking at a press conference in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, HDP Spokesperson Osman Baydemir said they have applied to local authorities for permission to hold Newroz celebrations in 33 population centers across Turkey, reported a Kurdistan24 correspondent.
It is unclear if officials will heed HDP's call for an uninterrupted Newroz as Turkey remains under an extended state of emergency imposed throughout the country since last year's summer military coup attempt against the government and rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
HDP and its sister organizations plan to launch Newroz celebrations in the town of Nusaybin in the Mardin Province, on the border with the Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) on March 17.
An ongoing and recently flared up armed conflict between Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Turkish Army is another potential impediment ahead of the planned public euphoria. Turkey accuses HDP of being a political wing of PKK but HDP vehemently denies the allegation.
The festivities will end in the de facto Kurdish capital of Diyarbakir where typically more than a million participate as seen in previous years, and the city of Van near the border with Iranian Kurdistan on March 21, the actual day of Newroz.
"Let no one extinguish the fire of Newroz," said Baydemir alluding to large customary fire around which large crowds of people dance.
Baydemir exemplified the Newroz of 2013 as a manifestation of peace when PKK's imprisoned co-founder and leader Abdullah Ocalan declared in a letter to millions in Diyarbakir that his group was to announce a ceasefire and start peace talks with the government.
During the Newroz 2016 which the authorities banned in numerous cities following months-long PKK-Turkish Army clashes in the aftermath of the collapsed ceasefire, riot police used tear gas as well as water cannons to disperse celebrants and detained hundreds.
For decades and despite strict bans, Newroz has served as a means of political expression for millions of Kurds whose identity and rights Turkey suppressed.
In 1992, government forces killed 103 peaceful civilians in several Kurdish towns as they gathered to celebrate Newroz, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released then.
With the arrival of the millennium, although successive AKP governments eased restrictions on Newroz, the topic continue to be a matter of contention as authorities are watchful of its greater political implications.
Editing by Ava Homa