Kurdistan region celebrates spring holiday Newroz

Some 150,000 people came to the town of Akre in the Kurdish region of Iraq to celebrate the spring holiday with fireworks, bonfires and traditional clothes and music.

People in Akre in the Kurdistan region turn out for Newroz in March. Some Kurds trace their background to Jewish ancestors. (photo credit: REUTERS)
People in Akre in the Kurdistan region turn out for Newroz in March. Some Kurds trace their background to Jewish ancestors.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Kurds celebrated Newroz in the town of Akre with a beautiful display of fireworks and the lighting of bonfires and torches overnight on Sunday. It is one of the unique traditions of the autonomous Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

Newroz is a spring holiday that unites Kurds and is celebrated in Iran and around the world. For the last several years, the celebrations have been toned down due to COVID.

“Kurds from all over the region have lit up the town of Akre in Duhok, considered the capital of Newroz, as the ages-long tradition of lighting fires to welcome the new year on the first day of spring commenced on Sunday,” Kurdish media channel Rudaw reported.

Thousands turned out for this celebration across Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. The Kurdistan Region was festooned with celebrants, and the local government took a holiday. Local government spokesman Lawk Ghafuri sent out a greeting: “Newroz Piroz and Happy Kurdish New Year.”

“It has become a tradition for visitors [in Akre] to climb up the town’s mountain with torches after dusk, creating a festive spirit with fireworks displays in the diverse town where Muslims, Christians and other ethnicities and religious groups have coexisted for centuries,” Rudaw reported.

IRAQI KURDISH people celebrate Nowruz Day, a festival marking the first day of spring and the new year, in the town of Akra earlier this year.  (credit: ARI JALAL / REUTERS)IRAQI KURDISH people celebrate Nowruz Day, a festival marking the first day of spring and the new year, in the town of Akra earlier this year. (credit: ARI JALAL / REUTERS)

People dressed in traditional Kurdish clothes for the event. It was estimated that 150,000 people came to the town. The area is known for tolerance and diversity and has a rich history, including connections to Jews from the Kurdistan Region who once formed an important part of the mosaic in the area.

Kurds in Kirkuk also reportedly lit fires at the Kirkuk Citadel. Kurds have suffered persecution in parts of Iraq historically, especially during Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, when Kurds were subjected to genocide. More recently, during the end of the ISIS war, the Iraqi government forced Kurdish authorities out of Kirkuk, and Kurds have complained of harassment in the governorate.

The Kurdish New Year being celebrated could represent a new horizon of tolerance. But Kurds face many struggles.

In Syria, there is concern over whether the eastern Syrian administration will hold out and whether the US-led coalition will leave Syria.

In Turkey, Kurds have also suffered arrests and persecution over the last decade as the government took a more right-wing nationalist turn.

In Iraq, Turkey continues to bomb Kurdish areas, claiming it is fighting “terrorists.” In addition, Iran has threatened the Kurdistan Region with missile and drone attacks.

PEOPLE ARE now looking to a springtime of possibilities.

“Kurds celebrate Newroz on March 21-23 by picnicking in the countryside and lighting bonfires with their families and loved ones,” Rudaw reported. “The occasion is known as the Kurdish New Year. Celebrations and festivities are held across the Kurdistan Region with hundreds of thousands of Kurds dancing in their colorful and traditional Kurdish clothes.”

Iraq’s prime minister announced March 20-21 as an official holiday. This shows recognition for the Kurdish tradition.

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani on Sunday extended his “warmest wishes to the families of the fallen heroes, to the Kurdish people, and to all peoples and communities of Kurdistan and its brave Peshmerga” and wished them a happy Newroz.

In Iran, where Newroz is also celebrated, President Ebrahim Raisi issued a message that said: “The Iranian nation will undoubtedly see the result of its endurance this year. The message is to work around the clock and tirelessly to build a strong and advanced Iran. No nation has achieved anything without intensive work and the maximum use of human and natural resources, and the new year and the new century must be the beginning of a new round of productive, useful, fruitful and progressive work for all of us.”

“All Iranian ethnic groups, including Persians, Lors, Kurds, Azeris, Baluchis, Arabs and Turkmen, serve this national cause,” he said. “We are all one family with a common destiny, the Iranian family.”

US President Joe Biden also issued a message for Newroz.

“Spring is an eternal symbol of renewal and rebirth, with light and hope filling the hearts of people from the United States to Iran, Central Asia, the Caucuses, the Middle East and Europe,” he said. “That is the message and the joy of Newroz that we are honoring with a Haft-Sin table in the White House.

“This year, perhaps more than ever, that message is badly needed. After all our pain and loss, we are reminded that better days lie ahead and that we all must work together to achieve a shared future of greater peace, prosperity and understanding. As we continue to make progress against COVID-19, I hope that soon our virtual celebrations will return to the joy and community we feel gathering together with family and friends,” the White House message said.