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A Kurdish Newroz

Andrés Gutiérrez

Istanbul, Turkey. March 2015.

Turkish Kurds celebrate the once banned Newroz, a holiday to mark their historical deliverance from a tyrant. Coinciding with the traditional welcome of Spring, Newroz has over the years become increasingly politicised, linked to the struggle for an independent Kurdish homeland.

The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) insurgency has seen forty thousand killed in south eastern Turkey, but the Kurds’ willingness to take on the militant Sunni group ISIS, has seen a thawing in relations between Istanbul and the PKK.

The jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan sent a message for Newroz, calling on his fighters to end the armed struggle against Turkey, and go to the negotiating table instead.

Ten years ago, the display of Kurdish colours or a photograph of Ocalan would have provoked arrest. This year, people freely wore PKK colours and carried images of their jailed leader. They also brandished the colours of the People’s Protection Unit, the Syrian Kurdish movement which has been at the forefront of battling ISIS.