Photographs and narratives by ROBERT LEUTHEUSER from and of his travels through Kurdistan and the greater Middle East. Published in conjunction with his photographic website

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19 March 2012

Newroz Celebration - Diyarbakir 18 March 2012

"Newroz Piroz Be!" Happy New Year. The first day of spring, March 21st, has long been celebrated by Persian and Persian-influenced cultures, as the demarkation of a new year. The calendars in Iran and Afghanistan still so reflect. The Kurds are also of Indo-European ethnicity originating in this same region. They have incorporated this new year into their culture and mythology, the latter including fire for Newroz festivities. Since the mid-20th century the Kurds have increasingly used Newroz as an occasion to celebrate their identity, and closely related, their cultural and political frustrations being minorities in four modern nation-states of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

In Turkey, because of the increase in violence these past 3 years after almost 10 years of relative peace, the government banned Newroz celebrations on all days but March 21st, presumably hoping to limit participation. The reaction by the Kurds was predictable as they defied the ban on Sunday, March 18th, and gathered outside of Diyarbakir. Although earlier in the day there was a heavy police presence in the city, and some confrontations, the violence did not approach levels feared. The the police ultimately did not interfere with the celebration.

The crowd was variously estimated at 100,000 to one million. By the time I arrived in the early after, the number seemed to be somewhere in the middle. But in any event there were still a lot of people. Several communication vans were burned, but on the periphery of the main gathering. Interest was essentially limited to clutches of older boys throwing rocks at the burning hulks.

The Newroz celebration seemed more like a ... celebration. Families gathered, tradional Kurdish clothing and the outlawed colors of yellow-red-green were worn with defiant pride, political speeches blared from atop the two busses in the middle of the crowd, and young and old alike chanted politically incorrect protestations while waving the universal victory sign of two splayed fingers.

What will happen on March 21st remains to be seen. (Postscript: As it turns out there was an isolated incident of violence where a policeman was wounded. There were no mass demonstrations.)


  1. Hi Rob, 'Tis great to see you're on the road again, in your own discovered element. From your photos and descrition, these Newroz celebrations seem to be a powerful, cultural bonding event in which Kurds let their hair down, so to speak, while letting their spirits flow. No doubt it's a necessary outlet for a people living under trying conditions, living under the gun.
    The next to last photo is presumably of a youngster throwing a rock at "a burning hulk." Can't make it out. What exactly is the burning hulk? Peter

  2. Azerbaijanis love their Novruz, too. These guys seem to party extra hard, though. Great photos.

  3. Dear Robert,
    Trusting that this Message finds you well.
    Congratulations to your Blog,well done and keep us informed about your Activities in Kurdistan.
    Best Wishes,Marcell Limon,"German Surgeon"