After days of snow and cold weather, people still came in their thousands to join the Newroz demonstration in Istanbul, as much a celebration of the New Year on the spring equinox as a political rally for freedom.
In the demonstration organised under the leadership of the Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK), flags and banners of trade unions and women’s groups merged with those of pro-Kurdish parties and socialist parties as people danced and sang, and chanted the slogans: ‘Freedom for Demirtaş’* and ‘We will prevail through resistance.’
The chairs and co-chairs of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Democratic Regions Party (DBP), Labour Party (EMEP), Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP), Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), Socialist Reconstruction Party (SYKP), and co-spokespersons for the Left Party, Socialist Solidarity Platform (SODAP), and Green and Left Party were present.
Officials of the HDP Istanbul branch greeted the crowd in Kurdish and Turkish and an address was made by branch co-chair Ferhat Encü, then the great Newroz fire was lit by the Peace Mothers**.
Ferhat Encü said in his address:
“In Newroz 2022, we are fighting to reclaim democracy and freedoms, and we demand that the Kurdish question is resolved through democratic means (…) The demand for the building of a democratic political administration and a transition to a democratic republic mark Newroz 2022. This is a Newroz that draws together the struggles to end the coalition government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and which unites all those who stand against lawlessness.
A statement by a platform of all the groups that had taken part in the organisation of the celebrations said:
“We greet the sons and daughters of Kawa the Blacksmith, those who came from all neighbourhoods of Istanbul to fill this area with energy, courage and hope! We hail all those who resist in the prisons, in the workplaces, the fields, the mountains, the streets and the universities. We hail the working class brothers of Kawa, all workers who resist capitalist exploitation. We hail all who think and write about, report on, and give voice to building a new world, a new country, a new life, and the future.”
The celebrations continued with other addresses by representatives of various groups, and concerts by street music groups Xero Abbas, Koma Sorjiyan, Grup Vardiya and Hûnermend Huriye.
* Selahattin Demirtaş, the imprisoned former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party.
** A Kurdish women’s peace and civil rights movement that promotes a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish question and struggles for an end to armed conflict between Turkish forces and Kurdish fighters.