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Every year on March 21st, the Kurdish people celebrate Newroz. In the Kurdish language, Newroz means “New Day”, by which Kurds mean the first day of spring. The Kurdish calendar begins on this day. Newroz, therefore, is the new day, the first day of the New Year. The Kurdish nation has been celebrating Newroz since the time of ancient history.
It is claimed that this tradition dates back to the myth of Kawa the Blacksmith. On March 21st in the year 612 B.C., Kawa killed the Assyrian tyrant Dehak and liberated the Kurds and many other peoples in the Middle East. Dehak was an evil king who represented cruelty, abuse, and enslavement of peoples. People used to pray every day for God to help them to get rid of Dehak.
On Newroz day, Kawa led a popular uprising and surrounded Dehak’s palace. Kawa then rushed passed the king’s guards and grabbed Dehak by the neck. Kawa then struck the evil tyrant on the head with a hammer and dragged him off his throne. With this heroic deed, Kawa set the people free and proclaimed freedom throughout the land.
A huge fire was lit on the mountaintops to send a message: firstly to thank God for helping them having defeated Dehak, and secondly to the people to tell them they were free. This is where the tradition of the Newroz fire originates. Today, Newroz is not just a day for remembering, it is also a day for the protest and resistance against the oppression which the Kurdish people continue to suffer from.
The Kurdish situation today is similar to their situation back in the days when King Dehak enslaved the ancient Kurds. The army and police in Turkey are no better than Dehak’s thugs. Officials in Iran exploit and enslave the people of the Kurdish regions of Iran just as Dehak’s agents did in the past. The people in Kurdistan must be free.
The Kurdish people need a voice in international affairs. Let us light the fire of justice and peace! Now is the time for all people to show their solidarity and support the national struggle for freedom in Kurdistan. This struggle is not just for Kurdistan; it is for all humanity.
Every year on 21st March in all parts, hamlets, villages, towns, cities of Kurdistan as well as by Kurds living in the Diasporas, they gather to show their unity, joy as well as cry out their need for freedom and democracy. The largest gathering is the North-Kurdistani city of Amed (Diyarbakir) where over a million people celebrate Newroz each year.
The statue of Kawa Asinger, (the Kurdish ironworker) holding the head of Zuhak, in Slêmanî, Kurdistan region of Iraq, later destroyed by Saddam regime forces in the 80s. 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. Photo: Ekurd.net/A.B.
Here in London Newroz has been celebrated for over 2 decades. As the population of the Kurds through forceful migration dramatically increased, the size and richness of the local celebrations too have advanced. Since the early 90’s Kurds have been celebrating, as it should be in the real and traditional spirit, outdoors in Finsbury Park. Music, food, dancing, fireworks, bonfire are just some of the activities that take place.
Traditionally Newroz has been celebrated by many peoples and nations in the Middle East and the ones that run through the old Silk Road. Among these are Iranians, Afghans, Azeri’s, Kazaks, Tajikistanis, Turkmen’s, some Arabs and some Iranian people living in Pakistan and India. Newroz which has different pronunciations in these areas, i.e. Nowroz, Navruz, Nowruz or Nevruz, Navrooz all carry the same meaning; namely, “New Year” or “New Day”.
For these non-Kurdish nations, Newroz signifies the celebrations of spring and natural outgrowth of the earth rhythms. In most of the Silk Road countries, Newroz announces the joyful awakening of nature after winter and the beginning of agricultural cycle of cultivating, planting, and harvesting. Newroz traditions are similar throughout the region, and have varied little over the centuries, except to embrace Islam. Unlike the western New Year traditions, Newroz is celebrated in daytime hours within the family circle.
Among the people who celebrate Newroz, only the Afghani and Iranian states have kept to the traditional solar or tropical calendar, in which the New Year begins on the day of Newroz. Many know that spring begins with the vernal equinox on about 21st March, summer with the summer solstice on about 22nd June, fall with the autumnal equinox on about 23 September, and winter with the winter solstice on about 23 December.
Some know that the “tropical”, solar, or seasonal year is of exactly 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45.5 seconds, or 365.2422454 days, that one day is added every four years to compensate for the loss of four.
5hr 48 min 45.5sec, that each of the equinoxes and solstices have their precise time of beginning pre-calculated and published by many observatories and other astronomical establishments, and that the astronomical and astrological worlds follow the tropical year.
Only a small number of us know that if the beginning of the year is considered from the precise start of vernal equinox, there shall never be any need to have a leap year at all and that’s the reason why the ancient Zarathustrians did not have it.
March 21st is the main celebration of Newroz, but for the next 13 days it is common practice to visit friends and relatives, buy plant seeds of fruit trees and have cheerful gatherings in the fresh spring air.
Traditionally, it is also a time to “clean up” one’s life. People tidy up their homes, wash drugs and draperies, decorate with flowers, and buy new clothes that they will use for visiting. On the day of Newroz, all housekeeping – including the preparation of the meal, careful cleaning of the home and the arrangement of blossoming branches from apricot, peach, almond or pomegranate trees – must be completed before rising of the morning star. Children enjoy the holiday because they often get presents of money, as well as blessings, from their elders.
The activities of the first 13 days of the New Year are considered indications of the year to come. For this reason, it is traditional to end quarrels, forgive debts and overlook enmity and insults. It is a time for reconciliation when forgiveness and cheerfulness are the dominant sentiments. As with the celebration of the Chinese New Year, there are traditions associated with the first visitor to the house during Newroz. To ensure good luck for the coming year, this person should have a “happy foot”; he or she should be kind, gentle, witty, and pious and have a good reputation.
In Iran and small communities of Kurdistan, and Northern India, where Zoroastrism has retained a strong influence amongst the populace, traditions require that the Newroz celebratory table contain specific elements. First, there must be a mirror, which reflects the past and shows the future so that people can make reasonable plans. Next, there must be candles. The flames hark back to the sacred nature of fire in the Zoroastrian religion, and personify the light and energy of a righteous life. The table must also contain an incense-burner for aromas and a water-filled vessel in which a live dish is placed to symbolize a happy life full of activity and movement. Most tables also include coins, fruit and a copy of a sacred book, such as the Koran.
Soon it is time for Newroz and its holiday season. Although Newroz has no religious meaning, it could well have a humanistic one common to all religions. Hopefully we will learn that Kurdish holiday season is a time of compassion and giving. Let’s hope that Kurds remain free from violence and abuse to the point that they give all minorities in Kurdistan their rights, so that the dominant cultures in the Middle East learn to give the Kurdish minority their rights not only in Iraq but also in Turkey, Iran and Syria.
The Kurdish people are calling on everyone to celebrate Newroz according to its original spirit of resistance. Newroz does not just belong to the Kurdish people; it is a possession for all oppressed peoples and for all of humanity. We believe the spirit and actions of Newroz can give strength to all humanity to end injustice and oppression.