Lebanon's Kurds celebrate late Nowruz after Covid-19 delay

A week late, but still as joyful, Kurds took to Beirut's Corniche to celebrate

Kurds living in Lebanon took to the streets of Beirut on Sunday to celebrate Nowruz, an ancient tradition that marks the first day of spring.

Nowruz, which means new day in Farsi, marks the first day of spring and is celebrated by Kurds around the world. This year’s celebrations in Beirut were delayed by the coronavirus lockdown, so Sunday’s celebration was a week late – but Beirut’s Kurds were unperturbed.

Historically, Lebanon has been home to only a small number of Kurds The figure increased to the tens of thousands in the 20th century, thanks to waves of migration. More recently, thousands of Syrian Kurds have settled in Lebanon as a result of the civil war in Syria.

The celebration created a surreal juxtaposition of imagery, with flags bearing the face of YPG leader Abdullah Ocalan waving in the wind along the corniche.

Mr Ocalan is one of the most revered political leaders among Syrian and Turkish Kurds. In addition to his high status in the Kurdish nationalist movement, many of his supporters saw him as an inspirational figure during the struggle against ISIS in Syria.

Hiba Rammi is one of those who came to Syria as a refugee.

“We are from Kobane, we left because ISIS came into our village, so we fled the war and came here,” she said.

“Turkey keeps threatening us, and people are living in fear. That’s why we aren’t going back home.”

It wasn’t just the Kurds celebrating. Haider Zaiter, a Lebanese musician with a large following on the app TikTok, said he had come along to enjoy the celebrations and show solidarity, despite not being Kurdish.

“Nowruz is becoming part of our culture,” he told The National.

“We want to share this joy with them [the Kurds] and share their struggle that everyone knows about.”

The celebration is seen as more than a holiday. It is also used by many to express Kurdish aspirations for independence. Sarhan Hussein, head of the Kurdish Future Movement in Lebanon, said: “All the minorities in the world have countries.

“The Kurds haven’t been allowed to come together and form a nation.”

Updated: March 31, 2021 10:57 AM

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