KURDISH " NOWRUZ " CELEBRATIONS IN TURKEY LEAD TO CLASHES AND ARRESTS
Thousands of Kurds throughout Turkey celebrated the spring festival of Nowruz on March 21st, using the occasion to call for greater political and cultural rights and to assert their identity as Kurds.
Some 50,000 Kurds in Diyarbekir gathered to celebrate and small clashes broke out between celebrants and local police. During the festivities, Leyla Zana, a former Kurdish member of the Turkish parliament and well know leader of Turkey's Kurdish minority made the following comment, " The Kurds have three leaders. One is Iraqi President Talabani. The other is Barzani . And the third is President Ocalan." ( Referring to Abdullah Ocalan , the jailed leader of the Kurdish Workers Party)
For Kurds, the Nowruz (the Farsi word for New Year) festival is an occasion to highlight their cultural identity. They sing, dance and jump over lit fires to symbolically burn away past impurities. Celebrations took place throughout the Kurdish regions of Turkey plus the cities of Istanbul, Izmir and Mersin.
In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan called for peace and unity between Turks and Kurds. He lit a small fire and three of his ministers hopped over the flames, (see picture).
The Prime Minister, due to a bad back, stood to the side and watched this merry-making and commented, "May the seeds of hatred that aim at our brotherhood burn and disappear in the fires that are being lit." ( Էֆէրիմ Էրտօղան Էֆենտի )