Kurds Celebrate Spring Festival as Symbol of Cultural Uniqueness and Freedom

March 23, 2004

Source: The Christian Science Monitor


On March 23, 2004 The Christian Science Monitor reported, "Questions of how different the Kurds are from the rest of Iraq's people are laid to rest on March 21 by the women and girls in shiny sequined dresses, the bonfires that dotted the hillside the night before, and the hundreds of thousands who pour out of Sulaymaniyah into the surrounding hills for a day of picnicking and flirting. Newroz entails singing, dancing, and feasting throughout the week, while the city's governments and businesses are shut down. Young men parade around in the Kurds' trademark baggy pants. The rest of Iraq barely notices. At first blush, the holiday looks similar to dozens of coming-of-spring festivals around the world. But for the Kurds, the day means far more - especially this year, the first after the fall of Saddam Hussein, with the Kurds having won a major political victory in the transitional constitution, which appears to guarantee the de facto autonomous status they've enjoyed since the US created the no-fly zone after the 1991 Gulf War. In the 20th century, Newroz became an integral part of the Kurdish national myth...In the 1930s, the Kurdish poet Taufik Abdullah decided it was time for a Kurdish cultural revival, and struck on this ancient holiday as the key. 'It was a dying holiday but he revived it and remade it as a symbol of Kurdish national struggle,' says Stran Abdullah, a Kurdish journalist. 'It was to remind everyone and ourselves that we're different, a special people. The lighting of the fires became a symbol of freedom.'"