Thousands of Kurds celebrate New Kurdish
Year Newroz in southeastern Turkey
March 21, 2008
DIYARBAKIR, Kurdish Southeastern region of
Turkey, -- Tens of thousands of Kurds
celebrated a traditional Kurdish New Year Newroz
festival in Turkey's southeast on Friday, chanting
slogans in support of a rebel group whose members
Turkey considers terrorists and the group's
The crowd shouted "long live President Apo," the
nickname of Abdullah Ocalan, jailed leader of the
Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, who is now serving
a lifelong prison term as the sole inmate of an
island prison off Istanbul.
Authorities increased security measures for Friday's
Newroz festival in Diyarbakir, deploying hundreds of
riot police, and armored personnel carriers.
'Newroz' is the traditional Kurdish new year, The
year 2008 corresponds to the Kurdish year 2620. All
Kurds around the world are celebrating the new year
'Newroz' on March 21.
It is Newroz festival today. Newroz means 'new day'
in Kurdish. It is not a sign of victory,www.ekurd.net
but the hope that
victory will one day come. They want to be
independent in their own country under the name of
The Kurdish calendar starts at 612 BC. This is the
year that Cyaxares, the grandson of Deioces (Díyako),
the first king of the Medes' empire, occupied
Nineveh and put the end to the brutality of the
Assyrian empire in the lands under its occupation.
A Turkish Kurdish woman flashes a V-victory sign as
a boy waves a flag with a picture of the imprisoned
Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan in the
background during the Newroz celebrations in
Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey (Turkey Kurdistan),
Friday, March 21, 2008. 'Newroz' is the traditional
Kurdish new year, All Kurds around the world are
celebrating the new year 'Newroz'. Newroz celebrated
by Kurds as an expression of identity in Turkey,
when they often assert anti-government sentiment by
raising rebel flags and displaying images of jailed
rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan in violation of Turkish
Newroz is celebrated largely by Turkey's Kurdish
population and is traditionally used as an
opportunity to highlight separatist demands by
Kurdish rebels. In the past, celebrations have ended
in riots that claimed dozens of lives.
This year's event in Diyarbakir started peacefully.
Police officers stayed away from the crowd, but
filmed those who were entering the festival area.
Banners in red, green and yellow, traditional
Kurdish colors used by the PKK, were seen
"PKK is the people. People are here," the crowd
shouted. "We are with you Ocalan. Teeth for teeth,
blood for blood."
The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party,www.ekurd.net
believed by many Turks
to be a political front for the PKK, organized the
festival and said it intended to keep the
Since 1984 the PKK
took up arms for self-rule in the country's mainly
Kurdish southeast of Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan). A large Turkey's
Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.
Kurds, a non-Arab people distantly related to the
Iranians, make up around 20 percent of Turkey's
population of at least 70 million.
The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds'
identity in its constitution and of their language
as a native language along with Turkish in the
country's Kurdish areas, the party also demanded
an end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and
constitution against Kurds, ranting them full
Gurbet Onen, a 21-year-old Kurdish woman enjoying
Friday's celebration, said Kurds need both economic
and cultural rights.
"We want freedom. There are factories, no jobs
here," she said. "We also want education in Kurdish.
We want (Ocalan) to be released."
AP | Agencies
** Kurds are not recognized as an official minority
in Turkey and are denied rights granted to other
minority groups. Under EU pressure, Turkey recently
granted Kurds limited rights for broadcasts and
education in the Kurdish language, but critics say
the measures do not go far enough.
The use of the term "Kurdistan" is vigorously
rejected due to its alleged political implications
by the Republic of Turkey, which does not recognize
the existence of a "Turkish Kurdistan" Southeast
Others estimate over 40 million Kurds live in Big
Kurdistan (Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Armenia),
which covers an area as big as France, about half of
all Kurds which estimate to 20 million live in
Turkey is home to 25 million ethnic Kurds, a
large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise
with the Kurdish PKK for a Kurdish homeland in the
country's mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.
Before August 2002, the Turkish government placed
severe restrictions on the use of Kurdish language,
prohibiting the language in education and broadcast
media. The Kurdish alphabet is still not recognized
in Turkey, and use of the Kurdish letters X, W, Q
which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet has led
to judicial persecution in 2000 and 2003
The Kurdish flag flown officially in Iraqi Kurdistan
but unofficially flown by Kurds in Armenia. The flag
is banned in Iran, Syria, and Turkey where flying it
is a criminal offence"
North Kurdistan (
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