Diyarbakýr's Nevruz celebrations

Hundreds of people are moving in processions to the fair area, 15 kilometers away from the city center of Diyarbakýr.

Diyarbakýr's Nevruz celebrations

Ayþe Karabat

People, young or old, packed into pickup trucks, buses or private cars are flowing in convoys. Many people are traveling on foot hastily, but with joy. The women wearing traditional colorful clothing, the elderly waving the party flags of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) and young women carrying their children on their backs...

Police checkpoints have been set up at several intervals to ensure a controlled migration. At a certain points, the vehicles are not allowed to go on any further. The drivers who are reluctant to pay heed to this prohibition are warned politely, yet with determination.

The enthusiasm is increasing at an unexpected rate though there are still hours for the ceremony to start. In the front rows, women from all walks of life are dancing halay -- an Anatolian folk dance -- and accompanying the dances with songs, mostly in Kurdish. An old woman in traditional clothing opens a huge umbrella decorated with scraps of fabric in green, red and yellow -- the colors of the flag of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). To have a better view of the stage she climbs onto someone's shoulders.

The biggest placard reads: "Either true or no democracy." This is the main slogan for this year's Nevruz. Another slogan is "Turkish unity requires Kurdish unity." There are also other striking placards: "This spring is the closest to freedom" or "Nevruz is the dawn of freedom of the Middle East peoples."

Some other placards have been banned: "The only solution in the Middle East is democratic confederalism." "Your health is our health," says another, referring to Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the PKK. This one relates to the current debates on Kirkuk: "We are all from Amed -- Diyarbakýr in Kurdish language -- and we are all from Kirkuk."

Security measures are not restricted to police checkpoints, searches and prohibition of certain placards. The police are continuously monitoring the area with moving cameras fixed to five points.

The number of people dancing halay increases, so do the announcements calling people to comply with warnings from officials as well as helicopter flights over the fair area.

The Nevruz legend, as believed by Kurds, is a freedom-related one. Its roots can be found in the legend of Kawa, a courageous blacksmith who lived 2,500 years ago under the tyranny of King Zuhak, a monster with two serpents growing from his shoulder who fed on the brains of small children. He was so evil that spring no longer came to the Kurdish homeland.

Kawa, asked to send his seventh and last child to Zuhak, hid his son in the mountains with other fleeing children. Over time, Kawa turned the children into an army and, on March 20, marched on the castle and smote the king dead with his hammer. Fires were lit on the hillsides to celebrate the victory, so the story goes, and spring at last returned the next day. The Kurdish Nevruz bonfires are considered to be the fire that Kawa lit.

Two-thousand party officials are trying to maintain public order in the ceremony area; there are also 20 lawyers ready to intervene in case of any incident.

Resistance: A cure for all

Nevruz, the festival in Turkey,

I wonder why there are a lot of balloon sellers among peddlers that are typical ingredients of such gatherings. Soon I find out the reason: Yellow, red or green balloons are tied to posters of Öcalan and let go to the sky. Some people produce a placard in the front row: "The antidote of poison is resistance."

Last week the DTP expressed doubt about a recent announcement from Turkey that tests on Öcalan's hair, urine and skin samples showed no signs of poisoning, despite allegations by his lawyers.

"From now on, nobody should go after such lies," Justice Minister Cemil Çiçek, who also serves as the government spokesman, said earlier. "No one should take such games seriously. Turkey is a state of law and Turkey has nothing to hide."

However a statement from the DTP demanded that an international delegation of experts look into the claims, saying Çiçek's announcement was not convincing. The statement accused the justice minister of pressuring the team of doctors from the Forensic Medicine Institution. Öcalan's lawyers in Italy had earlier claimed that an analysis of his hair showed high levels of strontium and chromium, both of which are toxic in large doses.

A group of young people are seen on the roof of a tall building facing the fair area; they cover their faces. Moving quickly they hang up a PKK flag and an Öcalan poster. Then they make signs of victory with their hands: the crowd responds with applause and whispers.

'Anthropologists' discover Diyarbakýr

There are also some people who are apparently foreigners. As reported by DTP officials, representatives of nongovernmental organizations from Italy, Spain and northern Europe. They may easily be mistaken as anthropologists due to their attitude while taking photos of the old people and children dancing halay accompanied of Kurdish rock music from Roj Amed, a popular Kurdish band.

An announcement in Kurdish invites people to stand to attention to show respect to the martyrs. DTP chairman Ahmet Türk, Diyarbakýr Mayor Osman Baydemir and some other people in the protocol collectively light the Nevruz fire. While songs are sung the message of Asrýn Legal Counseling Office, which defended Öcalan, is read. However the message has been written in the first person singular: "Everybody should know that I am a special hostage. It does not matter whether I live or die. I will continue to resist as long as I can." The message also requests an independent medical team.

The organization committee's attempts at preventing the crowd from shouting slogans supporting Öcalan or waving Öcalan's posters are all in vain.

Outside of the fair area is as crowded as inside. Some people are having a picnic by the side of the puddle road. A boy selling sunflower seeds tells us that he sold five kilograms by noon. Seeing the heaps of wastes from the consumption of sunflower seeds, I can tell the boy is telling the truth. The entertainment outside the fair area continues uninterruptedly. There are people eating the foodstuffs they have brought, children playing football and even some people riding horses. Peddlers selling simit, fruit, mobile phone credit, tobacco, kebabs and candy find the Nevruz celebrations most lucrative. Interestingly the police tape reading, "Accident scene, do not trespass," is used to delineate the fair area.

Not only songs, but also announcements were mostly in Kurdish. On the press cards given by the DTP are written both "Basýn" in Turkish and "Çapemeni" in Kurdish.

Zana: Talabani, Barzani, Öcalan comrades of Kurds

Having long preserved her silence, Leyla Zana attended the Nevruz celebrations in Diyarbakýr to deliver a speech. Speaking in Kurdish, Zana said: "The Kurds have three comrades. All of them are very precious. They occupy a significant space in Kurdish hearts," and continued: "First of these is Uncle Jalal [Jalal Talabani], the president of Iraq. He is a Kurdish leader and a believer in brotherhood, he accepts all of us. The second one is Uncle Masood [Massoud Barzani], the leader of the Kurdistan region. The third one is the one you call the guide, the leader: he is the will of the Kurdish people as we all know in our hearts, Öcalan. All three are our pride, ears, hearts and brains. They are etched in our hearts."

In her speech, Zana also said, this time in Turkish: "Kurds have proven themselves in the Dardanelles and Cyprus wars. They did not betray Turks. Kurds must pay respect to the values of other people while embracing their own values." Calling the government to conduct a survey in which Kurdish people are asked whether they want to live together with or separately from Turks, she maintained: "I am sure they would choose to live together with Turks."

In an apparent reference to the dominancy of Öcalan over Turkey's ethnic Kurdish population, she added: "Nobody's will is supreme over the will of the Kurdish people. Our will must be freed."

Türk calls on state for dialogue with Iraqi Kurds, Turkmens

While highlighting that the DTP is a staunch supporter of Turkey's unity, DTP leader Ahmet Türk, in his speech, also emphasized strongly that Turkey's approach toward Iraqi Kurds does matter for Turkey's Kurds.

"We are on the side of Turkey's unity. The fact that we've been supporting our Iraqi Kurdish brothers is something else. We haven't turned or back on the democrats of this country," Türk said, describing the Kurdish issue as "an issue for both the Middle East and the world."

"We want Kurds living in northern Iraq to be free and happy," Türk added, as he called on the Turkish state to establish a dialogue with both Kurds and Turkmens living in northern Iraq. "Turkey should build a policy for gaining the trust of both Turkmens and Kurds, you can't obtain a result through threats," he said.

Türk also said that Öcalan is not an ordinary prisoner and should be treated accordingly. "An independent medical team should go there and doubts about Öcalan's health should be removed."

During Baydemir's speech there was commotion and several people were detained.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16