Why Is Turkey Intimidated by Kurdish Celebrations of Nowruz, the Persian New Year?

Published March 18th, 2019 - 12:59 GMT
(Al Bawaba News)
(Al Bawaba News)

Shedding lights on the Turkish and Syrian authorities efforts to crack down on Kurds, the Turkish government have been making efforts to stop Kurds in Afrin from celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year festivities celebrated mainly by Kurds and Iranians, besides other nations in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

On March 16th, Afrin residents received notices written in Turkish and Arabic warning them from holding any celebrations in any way, neither by protests, gatherings, burning tires or “entertainment activities”.

One activist was quoted saying authorities prohibited them from organizing Nowruz-related celebrations in the Turkish-held region.


People celebrating the Nowruz have started preparations to celebrate the Persian New Year and several photos were posted on the internet of colored eggs, preparing good food and one of the most notable rituals which is families getting into spring-cleaning mode where they take their rugs outside their homes and clean it from the previous year’s dust so they can a have a fresh start.

Meanwhile, not all Kurds have the freedom of celebrating the new year as supposed.

The Nowruz celebrations have been a widely controversial issue in Turkey and Syria where governments usually perceive Kurdish-related traditions as a manifestation of nationalism.

The Kurdish peaceful region of Afrin has been plunged into the conflict of Syria, and the Turkish government gained control over it.

In 2018, there were almost no Nowruz celebrations in Afrin. People were in grief for losing the lands and for the hundreds of civilians who were killed during the operation.

The case is not better in other parts of Syria where Kurds used to hold secret celebrations for decades as it is banned by law. For several years, people who were found celebrating the new year were detained and died under torture in Assad's prisons.

This comes despite the fact that March 21 of every year is an official holiday in Syria, yet the government has never mentioned the reason behind this holiday or cited the Nowruz holiday as one.

After it became the Islamic Republic of Iran, authorities started paving the way to scale back Nowruz celebrations by saying it has pre-Islamic roots. However, the government efforts were not received well by Iranians and failed in preventing celebrations of the new year.

For Turkey, it is not easy to acquire permission to have a Nowruz celebration. For years, Turkish authorities have banned it in different cities; including Istanbul and Ankara.

In 2016, the Turkish government banned celebrations in several cities, yet in 2018, people were arrested while celebrating it.

Despite all efforts to crack down on Nowruz festivals, it is still universally recognized and embedded in the Persian culture.

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