ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – Kurds in all four parts of Kurdistan, throughout the world, and along with many other ethnicities welcomed their national festival of Newroz (equinox) with the beginning of spring on March 21.
In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, Kurds celebrate the ancient holiday in which large bonfires symbolize the victory of light over darkness and freedom over oppression.
Throughout Kurdistan Region or southern Kurdistan (Bashur), Kurds welcomed Newroz safely, thanks to Peshmerga forces who are currently fighting against Islamic State (IS) extremists along several frontlines and amidst a rapidly changing political climate, as Kurdish officials such as President Masoud Barzani emphasized an upcoming independence referendum.
In Kurdistan of Turkey (Bakur), the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) stated that despite restrictions and bans imposed by the Turkish government, Newroz celebrations would be commemorated and celebrated.
The Turkish government has announced a one-week curfew in the large Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir (Amed) and other Kurdish locales and declared that holiday celebrations will be banned in Istanbul and Ankara, among other cities.
In Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava), due to strict security measures and the threat of attacks by extremists, Newroz celebrations were held under the supervision of Asayish (Kurdish security forces) throughout the three cantons and recently declared federal regions of Jazira, Kobani, and Afrin.
In Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhalat) Newroz was held in a somewhat freer atmosphere though Kurdistan24 was not permitted to film the ceremonies and celebrations.
As amateur videos indicate, Kurds in the cities of Sanandaj (Sina), Bokan, and other areas welcomed Newroz by lighting huge bonfires, wearing Kurdish clothes, singing the Kurdistan national anthem "Ey Reqib" (Oh Enemy) and even carrying Kurdistan's flag.
Newroz is an ancient holiday often cited in Kurdish songs and poetry and is a unifying holiday for Kurds forcibly separated through history. It is a symbol of national resistance in the face of assimilation and oppression even in the present day.
Newroz is celebrated by other Indo-Iranian people such as Persians, Armenians, Tajiks, and Afghans, and it originates from ancient Zoroastrian religious traditions and is marked as the beginning of the new year.
There are various stories regarding Newroz' origins, but based on Kurdish mythology, some 2,500 years ago, Kawa, a Kurdish blacksmith bravely ended the tyrannical reign of King Zahak.
After his victory, Kawa and his companions lit fire on the mountain slopes declaring freedom to Zahak's previously oppressed subjects.
Reporting by Gulala Khaled
Editing by Benjamin Kweskin and Ava Homa
(Haybar Osman from Syria, Navin Dri and Hasan Kako from Turkey, and Hemen Hossein from Akre contributed to this report)