Turkey's Kurds seek peaceful Newroz

Amidst the devastation in Kurdistan of Turkey, four opposition parties held a conference on Wednesday in the large city of Diyarbakir (Amed), calling on citizens to attend a mass meeting

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Kurdistan24) – Amidst the devastation in Kurdistan of Turkey, four opposition parties held a conference on Wednesday in the large city of Diyarbakir (Amed), calling on citizens to attend a mass meeting and demand that the Turkish government allows a peaceful Newroz celebration (Kurdish New Year, March 20).

Leaders of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Congress of Democratic Societies (KCD), Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), and Peoples' Democratic Congress (HDK) announced that Newroz celebrations will last for six days this year (March 17 – 22).

Selahattin Demirtas, HDP co-chair said to the large crowd, “I hope the upcoming Newroz brings peace and freedom, and I insist on enforcing the ceasefire call proposed by leader Abdullah Ocalan during Newroz of 2013.”

Selam Irmak, KCD co-chair called on Kurds in Turkey and Kurdish diaspora to join Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakir and reiterated the right of the Kurdish people to education in their mother tongue in Turkey. Though the Kurdish language has become decriminalized, Turkish remains the only official language and speaking Kurdish in public is still viewed with suspicion.

Gulistan Kocyigit, HDK co-spokesperson, praised the struggle of veteran Kurdish politicians for achieving peace and freedom for the Kurds in Turkey.

“We would like to celebrate Newroz as a part of the struggle for a fair and sustainable peace,”  Kocyigit continued, “Please come and join us to bolster the free spirit of Newroz! We will be honored and strengthened by your presence.”

Many pro-Kurdish opposition parties in Turkey have held several conferences related to Kurdish issues since the jailed PKK leaders Ocalan's ceasefire call in 2013, but this conference was among the most significant. Many speakers and leaders publicly condemned the government's escalating violence and oppression towards Kurds and dissent in general. 

In 2013 during Newroz, Abdullah Ocalan, currently held in an island prison since 1999, in a letter read to hundreds of thousands of supporters in Diyarbakir, called on the PKK to lay its weapons down and withdraw from Turkey. Since then PKK-government fighting has overall waned, in late 2015 the ceasefire was broken and hundreds of civilians died in armed clashes between the Turkish government and PKK. 

 

Reporting by Hisham Arafat

Editing by Benjamin Kweskin and Ava Homa