SMN No. 14, February 28, 2011
Syrian activists are planning to turn this year´s celebration of Nowruz into a national day for all Syrians. A Facebook page calls upon Syrians to raise one million flags on March 21, the traditional beginning of the Kurdish New Year.
The page by the name “Make Nowruz a national festival…Raise one million Syrian flags” has attracted about a thousand people both Syrian Arabs and Kurds since it was set up a few days ago.
“Let us turn Nowruz into a national day that brings all citizens together, Arabs and Kurds, Assyrian, Armenians,” the initiators of the page said.
“We as Kurds have contributed to the building of this country and participated in its foundation from the very beginning and still defend it like any other Syrians.”
Many well-known Syrian Arab intellectuals and human rights activists have joined the page, among them author and researcher Yassin Haj Saleh and cartoonist Ali Farzat as well as the journalist and former detainee Fayez Sarah, along with many others. But ordinary citizens have also signed up to the page, even some who consider themselves pro-Syrian regime. One member uses a picture of President Bashar al-Assad as a profile picture.
Kurdish members say they considered this a positive sign and hope it “will be a severe blow to those who accuse the Kurds in Syria of being separatists and use this it as pretext for discriminating laws to be applied against Kurds”.
Some of the Arab participants wanted to proclaim Nowruz a national holiday like other national and religious holidays in Syria.
An Arab activist member of the page told the Damascus Bureau via email “this is a very positive indicator, and I hope this call will spread widely among the Syrians”. He recalled that usually every year on Nowruz Syrian authorities clash with Kurds celebrating their holiday. On that day, he said, they “intensify security presence to the extent that you think that this is a military camp not a festival. We hope to change that, and it will only change with the participation of all Syrians in this celebration and by imposing Nowruz on the authorities as a national day for all Syrians.”
The Kurds are the largest national minority in Syria. The authorities deny them their cultural rights. In previous years, Nowruz celebrations especially in Al-Jazeera, a predominantly Kurdish area in north-east Syria witnessed fierce clashes between security forces and local Kurds.