The festival of Nevruz or Nowruz, celebrating the new beginning or simply the coming of spring is not something peculiar to the Kurds, though it has special political connotations for the Kurdish micro-nationalist movement because of its mythological background.
Irrespective of whether the day marks the Kurdish mythological victory against Zahhak, an evil king who conquered Iran and had serpents growing from his shoulders, or simply is a celebration of spring coming, as it coincides with the spring equinox, which generally falls on March 21, the celebration is part of the folklore of a vast geography stretching from the Balkans and Turkey through Iran and the other countries of the Middle East and Central Asia, and even to Afghanistan.
Since separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorism began in 1984, the celebration has gradually become tinged with a political meaning, and for at least some Kurdish micro-nationalist elements it has become a tool for demonstrating support for the separatist death machine. The more the Turkish state has struggled to kill the political connotations of the celebration for ethnic Kurds, the more the celebration has acquired political importance.
Eventually, ministers, governors and even top commanders began participating in the celebrations, in an unnecessary attempt to demonstrate that the holiday is not just a Kurdish one, but is part of the folklore of Anatolia and beyond, including Iran and going as far as Afghanistan, et cetera.
Yet up until few years ago, every year there was some degree of violence before, during and after the celebrations, obviously not at all in line with the spirit of the festival. Then, just before the tenant of the Çankaya presidential office expressed his strong belief that “some good things will take place,” and the government plunged into the so-called Kurdish opening – which unfortunately fell victim to Kurdish micro-nationalism at Habur and which the government has been trying to revive for the past two years – Nevruz celebrations were fully endorsed by the state.
Since then a lot of water has passed under the bridge, the government has become far more nationalistic, and what is worse, this year there is an interior minister who has somewhat lost contact between his brain and his tongue or is at any rate successfully giving that impression.
He insisted this year that the day of Nevruz is March 21, and the holiday must be celebrated on that day. The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), or the political wing of the separatist PKK gang, for quite understandable reasons, wanted the day to be marked not on a weekday but on Sunday, yesterday.
The government, the interior minister, and governors were stubborn; so were the BDP. The end result, chaos ruled the day in the country’s largest city, as well as in Diyarbakır and many other settlements.
Yes, the spring equinox generally falls on March 21, but the Nevruz festival is usually held between March 18 and 24, generally on a weekend so that people can participate with greater ease. If the aim behind having a festival is to mark the day with as big a crowd as possible, why did the interior minister act as if Nevruz is an official holiday that has to be marked officially on an officially designated day?
Who is responsible for the violence yesterday? Is it people of all ethnicities, religions and colors trying to celebrate a festival considered by some of them to be a manifestation of their politics, by some to be a purely folkloric event, and by some to celebrate the coming of the spring, or is it an incompetent minister who preferred to align himself with rigidity and arrogance rather than moderation and wisdom?