Veteran Kurdish politician Zana wishes ‘peace’ after local elections during Diyarbakır Newroz celebrations

Prominent Kurdish politician Leyla Zana expressed her wish to “open the road to peace” after the local elections during her first public appearance in years at the Newroz celebrations in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakır province.

Evrim Deniz / Gazete Duvar

Thousands on March 21 gathered for the Newroz celebrations in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır province. Veteran politician Leyla Zana shared her wish to “open the road to peace” as she took the stage in her first public appearance in years. 

The celebration arena was adorned with placards reading "Her dem Kurdî Li her derê kurdî," (Always Kurdish, Everywhere Kurdish), “Kurdî Bextê Kurda ye,” (Kurdish language is happiness), and “Ji bo Kurdi Statu,” (Recognition for Kurds). 

Attendees left commemorative carnations on photographs of killed Kurdish youths Kemal Kurkut and Mahsa Jîna Amini. Kurkut was slain by police during the 2017 Newroz celebration in Diyarbakır. Amini was killed by Iran's morality police while under custody for not wearing a headscarf. 

Newroz attendees leave carnations on the photograph of Kemal Kurkut, who was killed by police during the 2017 Newroz celebrations at 23 years old. 

Tunisian artist Emel Meslusi performed on the main stage. Her performance at the Istanbul Newroz was blocked as the Turkish police requested to end the program at 5 p.m. 

Taking the stage, Zana said, “Newroz belongs to all those who celebrate it. But it is the spirit of Mazlum Doğan, Zekiye Alkan, and Rehşan Demirel who make Newroz,” commemorating figures who have self-immolated for the Kurdish movement. 

“The Kurds have not submitted to a century of persecution, and we will display our will in the local elections,” said Zana. She added that she hoped to open the road to freedom and peace after the local elections.

The crowd also chanted to celebrate the Newroz of the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan. 

The Lawyers for Freedom Foundation announced that 204 people were detained by the police at the celebration site for "wearing traditional Kurdish outfits and cultural symbols." Some 38 of the detained were children. 

The Demirören News Agency (DHA) reported that the police detained seven people before celebrations began for "wearing outfits that symbolized the PKK." 

The event marked the end of Newroz celebrations in Turkey. During the March 17 Istanbul celebration, the police battered and detained at least 100 attendees for not complying with the 5 p.m. end time imposed by the governor’s office. 

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)