‘No’ in the referendum, ‘yes’ to dialogue: Kurds celebrate Newroz in Diyarbakir

Hundreds of thousands gather at Diyarbakir's Newroz Park/ ANF

The Kurdish New Year, also a spring festival of Mesopotamian peoples, was celebrated today in cities all over Turkey. The day marked an exception in a long period of curfews and bans on political rallies and meetings in the Kurdish region.

Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakir began early in the morning as hundreds of thousands flocked to the Newroz celebration area located 4 kilometers from the city center. Organisers estimated more than 500,000 people to have participated in Diyarbakir only. People, dressed in yellow, red and green, filled the park carrying ‘No’ banners in Kurdish (‘Na’) and Turkish (‘Hayır’) to express their decision ahead of the referendum.

“On behalf of thousands of our comrades from HDP who are in jail we would like to once more express sincerely that we will continue with our struggle for peace never giving up our quest for freedom through democratic politics. We will not bow down or kneel before tyranny and tyrants. We will uphold our people’s dignity everywhere and we will definitely win” said Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, imprisoned co-presidents of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in a letter that was read out loud, and sent on behalf of all HDP deputies currently held in Turkish prisons.

In his address, Mardin Metropolitan Municipality co-mayor Ahmet Turk said: “We know well that Kurdish people do not kneel before the state no matter what they do. There is, again, huge cruelty today but with your enthusiasm, Newroz in Amed is heard from across the world. Your resistance and enthusiasm are welcome.”

Ahmet Turk stressed the importance of dialogue and common sense. “There are examples of this across the world. More than 200 thousand people died in Colombia but peace was eventually achieved. Peace and dialogue ended the oppression in South Africa. We tell them to give an end to their policies of intimidation and submission, and the policies aiming to darken the future of Kurdish people. Develop the path to peace and dialogue within the framework of the ideas put forth by Mr. Ocalan during the Newroz of 2013. There is no other way,” he said.

“Those that imprison Kurdish politicians and destroy the towns of Kurdistan will be brought to account before history. Our duty is to maintain an honorable stance. I do not believe that any Kurd will disregard their honour. Kurdish people will bring those responsible to account. 2017 is an important year for the future of the Kurds. It is an important year that will witness a change and transformation. It will be the year when those trying to annihilate the Kurds’ gains with assimilation policies in this country will be defeated. We have to continue our struggle without compromising on our commitment, freedom and future. We will hold our heads high no matter whatever the cost may be,” said Ahmet Turk at the end of his speech while people chanted the slogan; “We shall prevail!”

Osman Baydemir, Urfa deputy and spokesman for HDP said that those who think they can get the result they want through oppression, force and tyranny should look carefully to the Newroz celebration area in Diyarbakir. “Today the people of Amed [Diyarbakir] is putting an option in front of this government and this state. You have once again opened the door that leads to peace and freedom.”

A total of 69 people were detained in Bingol, Batman and Izmir on the grounds that they were chanting “illegal slogans” or were dressed in yellow, red and green. One young man on his way to the Newroz celebration area was shot dead by the police in Diyarbakir; a spokesperson for the police claimed that the young man was carrying a knife.