A scene from the Newroz festival in Istanbul's Kazlicesme district. Jumping over a fire to mark the coming of the new year is just one of many Newroz traditions. AA Photo from Hurriyet Daily News
Police are on high alert throughout Turkey this week as Newroz festivals get underway. Newroz marks the spring equinox and the beginning of the new year for Kurds, and as the Turkish government has emphasized of late, many other peoples from Central Asia to the Balkans.
In his Newroz remarks, President Gul expressed regret that the government had in past years banned Newroz celebrations. The government's emphasis on the holiday as something 'not just Kurdish' has also landed criticism from certain circles who argue the government is trying to somehow take the "Kurdishness" out of Newroz, though the government is right in its assertions that the holiday is observed by others than just just Kurds. The Central Asian heritage of the holiday, which some government officials have also put emphasis on in recent years, is even more controversial, though I have not thoroughly investigated the veracity of the statement.
The political significance of Newroz as a venue for Kurds to express their "Kurdishness," no doubt a politics of recognition here, plays out in this English-language story in Hurriyet Daily News of festivities in Kazlicesme, where BDP politicians turned the venue into a political stage at which to criticize the AKP.