Hundreds of thousands celebrate Newroz across Turkey

Hundreds of thousands of people have celebrated Newroz across Turkey amid an intense crackdown on the pro-Kurdish HDP. The most crowded celebrations were held in the country's Kurdish majority southeast.

Newroz celebrations in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır are seen. Picture credit: Metin Yoksu.

Duvar English 

Hundreds of thousands of people across Turkey have celebrated Newroz, which marks the arrival of spring, with large crowds pouring to the streets in the country's Kurdish majority southeast. 

The largest celebrations were held in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on March 21, which was attended by pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Mithat Sancar. Former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş's wife Başak Demirtaş was also present at the joyous event. 

Newroz, which is celebrated most widely among the Kurds, was marked amid an increasing crackdown on the HDP. A state prosecutor filed a case with the Constitutional Court for the HDP's closure, hours after Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu was stripped of his status as a member of parliament.

"Is the HDP a shop that you can shut down? The HDP is the people. It is hope. The HDP is the guarantee of living freely and peacefully in this country," Sancar told the crowd in Diyarbakır. 

"We are here and you will lose! Your dungeons, prosecutors and plots don't stop us because we are the hope and power of the people. We know that resistance is life," he added. 

Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır. 

Saying that the HDP still supports the call for peace in Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan's 2013 letter, Sancar noted that the party's demands for a democratic solution remain the same. 

"Öcalan said, 'A new period will begin. Politics will come to the forefront, not weapons.' We still voice the same demand. What was put forth in the 2013 Newroz was the will for a democratic solution. We insist on politics and democracy," he said. 

"That's why they want to end politics. They try to dissolve democratic politics in order to make the policies of war prevail in this country," he added. 

Also in Diyarbakır, Kemal Kurkut, who was killed by the police during the Newroz celebrations of 2017, was commemorated. 

"Why did the state not punish those who murdered my Kemal for no reason?" Kurkut's mother Sincan Kurkut told Mesopotamia News Agency, referring to the acquittal of the police officer tried for killing the young man. 

"He was killed four years ago, but I won't forget him even if 44 years pass," she also said. 

The 23-year-old university student was killed by police on March 21, 2017 in the Bağlar district despite being topless and carrying a knife. Police at the time said that he might have been a suicide bomber - a statement that drew ire since Kemal Kurkut was not even wearing a shirt and did not aim his knife at anyone.

'The HDP can't be shut down!'

Meanwhile, the HDP shared pictures from the March 21 celebrations in the southeastern provinces. 

A number of HDP deputies shared pictures of the crowds to defy Ankara's crackdown on their party. 

"A message from Cizre to Ankara; The HDP can't be shut down!" deputy Ayşe Acar Başaran said. 

Ankara was also the scene of celebrations, with HDP deputy Filiz Kerestecioğlu addressing the crowd. 

"They can't end the people's resistance through bans," Kerestecioğlu said, as the crowd chanted, "The HDP is the people and the people are here!" 

Gergerlioğlu, who was detained and released earlier on March 21, refused to enter the celebration area after police wanted to search him. He addressed the crowd through the phone instead. 

Newroz celebrations in Ankara. 

The celebrations in Istanbul were held on March 20 with the attendance of thousands of people. HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan addressed the crowd. 

Scarves with an image of Demirtaş, who has been imprisoned since Nov. 4, 2016, were seen in the area. 

A demonstrator holds a scarf with an image of Selahattin Demirtaş during the Newroz celebrations in Istanbul.

Demirtaş also marked Newroz with a message sent from his prison cell.