naw-rooz (nevruz in turkish) is the day the sun enters the sign of the lamb in ancient oriental calendars or aries in western astrology. it is the day the new year begins.
as in all similar celebrations based on the cycle of seasons, naw-rooz probably extends back to antique dionyssiac - demeterian practices; when the invernal death of nature and its primaveral renascence were alternately observed as marks of collective time keeping.
for some reason or another, naw-rooz, which is persian in name became associated with the kurds. for centuries, kurdish tribes rejoiced the advent of spring on the 21st of march. the main event was jumping over a flaming fire, possibly to symbolize the merriness of the warm days ahead.
however, as the pkk and the kurdish question became more deeply engraved in turkish political society, naw-rooz, too, acquired a political character. first in the east, then the kurd populated sectors of large towns, it became an occasion where separatist slogans were shouted in demonstrations, occasionally acts of vandalism and pillage were staged, the turkish government was protested and clashes occurred with the police and the military law enforcement. the wood fire, too, was replaced with burning truck and tractor tyres which gave less flame but a thick, poisonous, pollutant and very visible cloud of smoke.
about 10 years ago, the state put its hand on naw-rooz. it was declared as a day to observe nationally, i.e., kurd, turk, what remains of armenian, greek and jew all together, as one soul. papers printed and tv's broadcast sights of bejacketed, necktied officialdom wearing black shoes and generals in full uniform jumping over the fire. tyre burning was of course outlawed, not because of environmental or health concerns, but because of the difficulties of policing it. thus, the spirit of revolt injected to naw-rooz by the kurds was enucleated.
yet, during the last few naw-roozes, the revolt was back. clashes, though not major, occurred in the east and big cities like ankara, izmir, adana, mersin, even antalya and of course the largest kurdish populated city in the world, istanbul, between the police and gendarmerie and the kurdish militants and youth, who now include a good many under 18.
tomorrow, march 21 is naw-rooz. information coming to newsrooms indicate there may be protests and demonstrations tomorrow in istanbul. at any rate, the police, in the name of taking precautions, may block, control and close down quite a few roads for security reasons, congesting the already paralyzed city traffic. those who travel around gaziosmanpaşa, tarlabaşı (taksim) and dolapdere should be particularly wary. their daily rhythms may be seriously upset.
happy naw-rooz, to all of us by the way. after all, it is originally a day for merry making. spring is here!
nevertheless, also... achtung, naw-rooz!