Mar 17 2019

Turkey bans Newroz celebrations for Kurds in Syria’s Afrin

Turkey is preparing to stop Syrians in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin from celebrating Newroz, the Kurdish new year, UK-based Al Araby website reported on Saturday, citing local sources.

Notices were distributed in both Turkish and Arabic saying that Newroz was not an official public holiday and citizens of Afrin would not be permitted to celebrate in any way, it said.

"An Arab activist who took part in organising a large celebration of Nowruz in Efrin told me the Turks refused to give them permission to hold it," researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov tweeted.

The annual Kurdish celebrations are a highly contentious issue in Turkey, which is home to some 15 million Kurds.

Turkey seized control of Afrin in March 2018, after it helped its Syrian rebel allies take control of the province as part of Operation "Olive Branch" to oust Syrian Kurdish forces from northern Syria.

Ankara sees the festivities as a manifestation of separatist nationalism and maintains heavy control over them often banning events in large cities as in Istanbul and Ankara.

Turkey has been fighting an over-three-decade war against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which it designates a terrorist organisation.

Syrians in Afrin would not be allowed to hold protests and marches to celebrate the holiday on 21 March or any other day, nor would they be permitted to burn tires, a symbolic move, it said.

"The Syrian opposition in Afrin announced a ban on Kurd’s celebrating Newroz as the national Kurdish holiday,’’ Kurdish-Syrian journalist Sardar Mlla Drwish tweeted. "The Syrian regime was unable to prevent the Kurds despite its attempts."

Newroz, also referred to as the Iranian new year, is rooted in Iranian and Zoroastrian cultures and is celebrated by Kurds and Iranians, in addition to nations in the Caucasus and Central Asia.