Basouta, Syria – Syrian Kurds in the northwestern opposition-controlled Afrin region have welcomed the first day of spring this year with a subdued Nowruz celebration as they mourn those killed in the earthquakes that hit northern Syria and southern Turkey on February 6
An initial quake, followed by an almost equally strong quake and hundreds of aftershocks, shook the region, causing tens of thousands of deaths and damaging large parts of both countries.
Nowruz marks the start of a new year in a number of countries and communities, including Afghanistan, Iran, India, Syria and Turkey. Often referred to as Persian New Year, it has been on the UNESCO list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2009.
A symbol of freedom and peace
Idris Rasool, a 26-year-old father of one child, told Al Jazeera that for Kurds, Nowruz’s New Year celebrations are an opportunity to come together and renew bonds between people, as well as a symbol of freedom and peace.
“We celebrate Nowruz on two specific days every year. On the morning of March 20, we prepare the necessary equipment to light the fires before lighting them at sunset, accompanied by playing and dancing to popular Kurdish songs. On the 21st, we will have gatherings and celebrations,” Rasool said, holding his young daughter in his arms.
“This year we canceled the celebrations we held on Nowruz due to the catastrophe in Syria and Turkey following the devastating earthquake last month, and we wanted to paint a mural to express our grief for the earthquake victims,” said Idris.
On the night before Nowruz, the celebration begins with the lighting of bonfires on the tops of hills and mountains to let the world know of the victory and liberation of the Kurdish people, the defeat of darkness and the attainment of freedom.
“The fire is a symbol of freedom and peace, and it is a custom followed by Kawa Haddad, who started fires after defeating King Dahhak, who killed and oppressed the Kurds,” said Fadelah Hassan, a 49-year-old. mother of four children from Basouta, referring to the Kurdish story of a brave blacksmith who defeated an evil, bloodthirsty Mesopotamian king in ancient times.
According to legend, to celebrate the victory of Kawa’s army, women put on their best dresses and everyone sang and danced around the flames of their liberation. And once Kawa defeated the wicked king, fruits and vegetables began to grow again, rivers flowed, and birds and wildlife returned to the land of Mesopotamia, a day that has since been marked by the Nowruz celebrations marking a new year. welcomed.
Five years ago, someone was welcomed to Nowruz: little Aya who celebrated her fifth birthday with a simple cake and candles.
“This is the most beautiful coincidence that happened to me, that my daughter came on the same day we celebrate Nowruz,” said Badia Mamo, Aya’s mother.
Mamo told Al Jazeera that while the celebrations this year were to mourn the earthquake victims, she wanted to celebrate her daughter’s birthday with everyone that night.
“We try to bring some happiness to our children by celebrating my daughter’s birthday among the people, even if it is with a small piece of cake,” said Badia.
The celebration of Nowruz was not always smooth. The governments of Syria, Turkey and Iraq, fearing Kurdish nationalism, had banned the celebration of Nowruz among their Kurdish minorities in the past.
“The (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad regime approached us in Nowruz and prevented us from practicing the rituals of this holiday, so we celebrated it at home, each of us with our families,” Hassan said.
“Nowruz and lighting a fire on this day symbolizes salvation from injustice and tyranny,” said 55-year-old Juma Hassan. “It is the beginning of a new page for all the peoples of the region, so that we can join hands, respect each other and share our concerns, whether we are Kurds, Arabs or Turks.”