Ablaze in Acre
Newruz is a symbolic holiday highlighting the Kurdish struggle against oppressive forces
Kurdish youth anxiously stand beside a row of unlit torches. A portly man and a group of caretakers soak rags from a large basin of gasoline. At dusk, these young men will carry flames up the town of Acre and atop a mountain to celebrate the Newruz holiday.
Newruz originally dates back to the Zoroastrian faith signifying the Northward equinox. People from across the Middle East and Central Asia follow the holiday, but the Kurds have made the festival a symbolic flame for their nationalist cause.
Nearby the stockpile of beacons, Fikre Ali from Acre elaborates on the folklore of Newruz. In the mythology, an evil king named Zuhak ruled over Persia. His reign created darkness and fear. A blacksmith known as Kawa led a rebellion against Zuhak and killed the tyrant with a hammer. Kawa lit a great fire on a hill to signify the end of Zuhak leading to the return of Spring.
“Just as our ancestors were freed from Zuhak, we have been liberated from Saddam,” Fikre concluded. This comparison helps explain the zeal of the huddled boys waiting to bring fire to the top of the mountain. They rep- resent the freedom of the Kurds and the coming bounty of springtime.
The torches were set ablaze, and these local heroes started to run up the mountain. Recent events have galvanized the Newruz festivities. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, freed eight Turkish hostages on March 13 in the northern Iraqi city of Duhok. Dialogue has restarted between the Turkish government and the rebel group to address a myriad of Kurdish grievances such as recognizing Kurdish as an official language.
This reconciliation process ensued with a PKKorganized Newruz party in the Qandil Mountains. Members passed out literature and flags, while people danced to several Iranian Kurdish singers. One spectator called it a “PKK coming out party.” Supporters now wait to see what the Kurds will receive in return for the PKK putting down their weapons.
Back in Acre, the line of torches snaked down the mountain. The holders proudly walked through raising their flames to welcome in an auspicious future.
Nawruz celebrating Kurdish people seen on and around the Akre Mountain, North East of Erbil.