Make this Newroz a genuine celebration of peace

19 March 2015

Newroz is traditionally the most cherished date in the Kurdish calendar, but this year it has taken on an added significance.

It is the first Newroz since the historic victory of the Kurds in Kobane against the ISIS menace. The ultimate success of the courageous Kurdish men and women fighters in the battle for the strategically important city of Kobane has inspired people worldwide with a passionate sense of justice and this victory can now be understood as a historic turning of the tide in the fortunes of the Mideast and in the fate of all the peoples of the region.

In decisively halting the advance of ISIS at Kobane the Kurds rightly won accolades and new friends from many quarters. The world should now respond by giving material support to the Kurds and by so doing give credit where credit is due.

The Kurds in Kobane and the wider Rojava of which it is a part have been motivated in their beliefs and resistance by the ideas of democratic politics and free citizenship espoused by Abdullah Ocalan and the movement that he founded.

The EU and the US should therefore look again at the banning of the PKK and act to remove the organisation from the terrorism list where it is placed alongside Al Qaeda and ISIS; which itself is a grotesque injustice and an affront to all the Kurdish fighters who resisted and defeated ISIS.

The unbanning of the PKK is the most constructive contribution that the Western powers can take towards assisting the peace process inside Turkey which has now entered an important new phase with the recent announcement of proposals by jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.

These proposals, if properly acted upon, offer a real possibility of a negotiated settlement that can lead to securing a long-term peace between the Turkish state and representatives of the Kurds, namely the PKK. The offer of the Kurds to give up arms as part of a verifiable peace package that sets out clear steps mutually agreed and with responsibilities on both sides to the conflict puts peace within the grasp for the first time in a generation.

For this historic moment not to be squandered Turkey needs to be persuaded to respond appropriately in the spirit of magnanimity and reconciliation initiated by Ocalan and the Kurds.

The Kurds demand and deserve a peace that is based on justice with recognition of their rights to self-determination secured within a democratic framework as outlined by Ocalan in his latest proposals.

In Rojava, northern Syria, the Kurds have established a democratic self-administration and demonstrated clearly their competency for running their own affairs. Rojava is a truly path-breaking initiative for the Mideast because of its respect for the principles of democratic participation, respect for the diverse ethnic and religious communities within the area and for the equal participation of men and women within the administration.

This development has been achieved against all the odds of war and conflict raging in a neighbourhood where women’s civil rights are widely disregarded.

Rojava should therefore be recognised as a model of devolved democratic rule by local communities that could potentially offer a way out of oppression and conflict that prevails in many parts of the region. It is certainly more than a glimmer of hope amid the civil war and the carnage inflicted by ISIS.

Peace in Kurdistan is convinced that the best way to achieve justice for the Kurds is to delist the PKK and we believe that it is vital to urge Turkey to release Abdullah Ocalan in order for a real dialogue to have a chance of bringing an end to the conflict.

Furthermore, Peace in Kurdistan also urges the UK, EU and US to provide aid for the people of Kobane to enable them to rebuild their community and to return to their homes.

We call on the Western powers to recognise Rojava as the democratic choice of the people of the Kurdish-majority provinces of northern Syria as an important step towards ending the conflict in that country.

In taking these steps we can genuinely honour the spirit of Newroz as a festival of all the peoples and their legitimate aspirations for freedom.