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For life, for beauty, for the smiles of the children

I am sharing with you today a picture of the lovely daughter of my cousin, wearing her finest dress to celebrate the Kurdish New Year, Newroz. You can see how happy, proud and excited she is, preparing and anticipating to be part of the celebration, together with friends and family. For her, this will be an opportunity to reconnect with people who live at a distance, as well as meeting many others that she doesn’t yet know.

My cousin’s daughter was born in Europe, lives in Germany and speaks German, so preparing for Newroz and celebrating is quite different from the life she lives on a daily basis. Yet even if it is only for a couple of days each year, Newroz still represents something really important for her as a person. She becomes part of a large and welcoming community, where she is recognised and appreciated. Year by year, she grows, becomes stronger and more visible. Newroz connects her with generations stretching for thousands of years back in time, as well as opening a path to the future.

In an often chaotic world, the recurring fires, dancing and songs of the new year offer stability and reassurance, as well as marking the time of leaving any regrets behind to move forward. Like my cousin’s daughter, thousands and thousands of children celebrate Newroz far from the villages or cities where their elders were raised. Newroz today joins the various local yearly festivals celebrating the arrival of spring in communities across Europe, adding its own unique colours, but also borrowing flavours and rhythms from the places it visits.

Seeing the simple unrestricted joy of my cousin’s daughter makes me happy and gives me hope. The Newroz celebrations of my childhood were not so carefree, but came as a yearly reminder of restrictions and persecution, along with the longing for a better future. Fires were still lit, with joyful dancing and singing, but in distant inaccessible places. This was not just to be close to nature and the land, but allowed the gathered people to quickly disperse and escape if needed. As a wheelchair user, joining the others by the fires would have been dangerous for them and for myself. So, instead I stayed by the cars, babysitting some of the children, and guarding the bags or valuables that people left behind.

Decades have passed but - like those celebrations so many years before - this year, Newroz again comes with tears and flowers, as a reminder both of oppression and irrepressible longing. Last year in Afrin, four brothers were killed simply because they had lit a fire in front of their home. This year, already in the week ahead of Newroz, several young people were killed as a warning, and the people of Afrin spent Newroz in terror, locked inside their homes.

For myself, I dream of a future where no person will imagine that they are “strong” or “important” because they have succeeded in terrifying and humiliating others. I dream of a future, where all can celebrate spring with a smile and wide-open arms, like my cousin’s daughter. But to make this happen, we all need to show the determination of Kawa the blacksmith, joining forces for human rights and dignity.

For all who celebrate, from Kazakhstan to the Pacific Ocean, best wishes for the coming year!


Chavia Ali

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