Newroz 2020 events cancelled as the world reacts to Covid-19 pandemic

Large Newroz 2020 celebrations have been cancelled across the world due to the extraordinary steps being taken to contain the spread of Covid-19. However, The Kurdish community remains united in its defiant celebration of hope and resistance.The Kurdish celebration of the New Year holds a special significance because of the frequent suppression of Kurdish culture and identity by tyrannical governments. 

What Newroz 2020 represents

In the Turkey of the 1980s the very use of the word “Newroz,” which means “new day” in Kurdish, was made a criminal offence, in line with Turkey’s long-established policy of denying Kurdish identity. Just as the official narrative didn’t recognize the existence of “Kurds,” there could be no New Year called “Newroz.” All those who opposed this logic were imprisoned or killed. Under its 1980s military dictatorship Turkey was infamous for its torture prisons, which served mainly as “re-education” and Turkification centres. The history of Newroz begins in one of these torture prisons — the “No. 5 Prison” in Diyarbakır, the de facto Kurdish capital in Turkey’s southeast. Especially the first years after the 1980 military coup are renowned as the “period of barbarism.”Rosa Burc – Jacobin 2019.

Newroz represents not only a celebration of new life but also defiance in the face of oppression. The roots of the celebration go back thousands of years to the tale of an Assyrian king and conqueror called Zuhak. A cruel tyrant who is ultimately defeated by a brave blacksmith called Kawa who smites him with his hammer. Kawa celebrates this victory by setting fires on the hillside.

Resistance is life

Today the story of Kawa has become an allegory for the Kurds instinctive resistance to tyranny and the lighting of fires at Newroz provides a powerful symbol of hope for the ultimate victory of the oppressed over their oppressors. The Freedom for Öcalan campaign stands shoulder to shoulder with the Kurdish people in their struggle against modern-day Zuhaks. We appreciate the significance of Newroz and so understand that the decision to cancel large celebrations this year has not been taken lightly.

Trade union solidarity

We also understand and appreciate the vital support that our campaign receives from trade union reps and organisers across the movement. Without them, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to speak at meetings and events up and down the country.

They are the blacksmiths in the story of this campaign and right now, understandably they are focused 100% on the well being of the workers they represent. In this, they have our unwavering solidarity and support.Sadly many of the conferences and events, we had looked forward to making major contributions to this year, have been cancelled. The Durham Miners Gala, for example, has been postponed till 2021.

Our plans

We will keep the energy and momentum of this campaign moving forward in this difficult time but we feel it’s only appropriate to give our supporters some space to adapt to these worrying new circumstances before we press ahead with alternatives to our planned meetings and conferences.

We’d like to also thank our union partners who had planned to make space for us at their events this year particularly ASLEFPCSCWUNEU and USDAW.

And as ever Durham Miners Gala and Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival for their continued solidarity and help in making a home for us in the labour movement.

Our shared values

The values the trade union movement shares with Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdish liberation movement; solidarity, collectivism, inclusivity. These are the values that will remain essential to get us through this global crisis.

The way we campaign will change over the coming months however our steadfast commitment to our shared values will not.

We won’t be together physically for Newroz 2020 but the burning desire for justice and freedom makes unites us in the face of despots, borders and pandemics.

The Freedom for Öcalan campaign hopes for a happy and safe Newroz for all comrades old and new.

Newroz pîroz be!