Celebrations for Newroz, the Kurdish new year, continued in European cities over the weekend, with Frankfurt seeing a particularly significant attendance on Saturday.
The organising committee and attendees described the celebrations in the German city as “a mass reminiscent of the European Newroz celebrations of the 1990s” and “a sign of the struggle between the authoritarian regimes of Middle East and the resistant peoples.”
German police said some 30,000 people attended the event, while the Kurdish press reported that 50,000 people gathered to participate in the celebration which marks the beginning of spring.
The event was organised by five federations affiliated to the umbrella organisation for Kurds in Germany, the Confederation of Kurdistan Communities in Germany (KON-MED).
Kurdish people and friends of the Kurds set off for Frankfurt at midnight for the final Newroz in Germany on Saturday. Tens of thousands of people gathered near the trade fair in Rebstockpark, in traditional Kurdish garments, displaying flags and banners with images of those imprisoned or killed due to involvement in the Kurdish political movement in Turkey, Iran, and other authoritarian countries in the Middle East.
The turn-out exceeded expectations, according to the confederation’s co-chair, Ergin Sever, who added that they “could not carry half as many people to the area due to the shortage of vehicles”.
The Newroz programme started with a minute of silence to honour those who have lost their lives in the Kurdish struggle, and also to commemorate victims of the 6 February earthquakes that hit southern Turkey and northern Syria.
Despite the face that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is classified as a terrorist organisation in Germany, there were PKK flags and pictures of imprisoned PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan, in the crowd. As soon as the programme started, the German police warned the crowd to take down the PKK flags and Öcalan posters, but the crowd defied the order.
Campaigns that demand freedom for Öcalan, imprisoned in Turkey since 1999, also marked this year’s Newroz celebrations in Germany.
“The Kurdish people filled all Newroz areas and shouted that they do not accept the isolation of their leader,” said Zübeyde Zümrüt, the other co-chair of the confederation, adding that the calls for Öcalan’s freedom raised in Turkey’s Kurdish populated regions were reflected in the celebrations in Europe.
“Our people’s longing for freedom is reflected in the fields with great enthusiasm,” said Demir Çelik, co-chair of the Democratic Alevi Federation.
Deborah Düring, a German Green Party member, said that women of the world hold the struggle of Kurdish ‘sisters’ as an example, and embrace the Kurdish slogan “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi” (Woman, Life, Freedom).
“You will definitely succeed in your struggle. I am proud to be with you in the struggle of the Kurdish people against the barbarians,” Düring said.
“The Kurdish people are showing great resistance against inequality and paying a price to gain their rights today. We will fight together with you against the injustices and ensure equality,” said the President of the German Trade Union Association in Frankfurt, Philipp Jacks.
Kaweh Masoori, a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and a German Bundestag lawmaker, expressed his hope that the Kurdish people would bury right wing president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan into the realms of Turkish history in the upcoming 14 May general elections and expressed his party’s support to Kurdish politicians in Turkey.
Mike Josef, the Syria-born social democrat who won Frankfurt’s mayoral seat on Sunday, also attended the celebration in Frankfurt.
Funds raised during the Newroz festival in Frankfurt will be transferred to victims of the 6 February earthquakes.
In the Austrian capital of Vienna, Kurdish people and their friends celebrated Newroz with great enthusiasm on Saturday.
Hatip Dicle, a former lawmaker of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), talked during the event at Gasometer.
“The forces of freedom and democracy would work tirelessly to overthrow the fascist regime in the upcoming elections,” he said, referring to upcoming elections in Turkey.
Leyla İmret, the co-chair of HDP Germany, and Ahmet Zirek, representative of the Democratic Forces Union, also delivered speeches during the event.
The first president of the Vienna Provincial Parliament, Ernst Woller, and a social-democrat member of the Austrian parliament, Harald Troch, also delivered speeches and expressed solidarity with Kurdish people.
In Bordeaux, France, Newroz was also celebrated on Saturday. The event began with a minute of silence for those who have fallen in the Kurdistan freedom struggle.
“The time has come for the freedom of Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan,” said the co-chair of the People’s Congress of Kurdistan (Kongra-Gel), Remzi Kartal, in Bordeaux. “The upcoming elections would be Newroz elections,” he added, referring to Turkey’s upcoming elections.