DUHOK (Kurdistan 24) – The Assyrian New Year, known as Akitu, marked the beginning of the year 6769 and was celebrated with a festival and march in the center of the Kurdistan Region province of Duhok on Monday.
Thousands of Assyrians from Duhok, the Nineveh Plains, and beyond gathered together with their families for a day of music, dance, and cultural renaissance after the recent devastation of ethnic cleansing by the so-called Islamic State.
“Akitu this year was as festive as every year,” reveler Jarjis Emad of Duhok said. “The feeling of belonging is what Akitu always brings, and reminds us that we are still here.”
“Akitu is a symbol [of] our existence. Akitu is newness, life, and freedom.”
Despite the end of the Islamic State’s final bastions of territorial control in Syria and Iraq, the Assyrian community still faces challenges ahead. Massive population losses due to displacement and immigration had reduced the size of Akitu celebrations or canceled them altogether in recent years. However, this year’s festival was larger than the year before.
“The atmosphere was the greatest,” Evan Sami of Bakhdida said, “and we spent beautiful time with our Etitu youth team.”
“This year was more impactful than last year,” said Melinda Khubiar, an Assyrian American now living in Erbil. “From Zakho to Baghdad and from the diaspora, we saw members of our communities turn up to celebrate together.”
Another Assyrian American, Elizabeth Purto Bahner, added, “The celebration in our homeland is the most meaningful.”
“We continue to thrive as a people through our language and traditions, including the new year celebration.”
Christians from across the region, including the diaspora from around the world, joined the celebrations in Duhok. Many were dressed in traditional clothes specific to their villages and towns.
The Akitu festival is celebrated on April 1 annually.