Newroz is upon us once again, Kurdistan’s new year set to be its biggest celebrations yet. This new year looks set to be very different from the last, with Kurdistan’s circumstances changing year by year and the situation around it anything but settled.
The celebrations are set to be one of the most important expressions of Kurdistan’s identity, with Kurds around the world ready to celebrate their heritage.
President Masoud Barzani gave his traditional Newroz message to Kurdistan. In it, he spoke about the situations of Kurds around the world, touching on the efforts of the peshmerga against ISIS, the escalation of violence in Turkey, and the possibility of a solution to the crisis in Syria. He also spoke about Kurdistan’s relations with Baghdad, saying that independence was really the only viable option for Kurdistan, but that it would discuss its relationship with Baghdad before any referendum. He also urged patience over the economic crisis, saying that measures were in place to resolve it, and addressed the issue of Kurdistan’s presidency, suggesting the need for new elections.
So, what is in store for Kurdistan in the year to come? One thing that seems certain is that the next year won’t be quite the same as the last. Things are changing too fast in and around Kurdistan for that to be the case. Some of the challenges might have a familiar feel to them, but this is likely to be a year for dealing with those challenges, rather than reacting to them and simply trying to contain them, as Kurdistan has been forced to do previously.
The fight against ISIS is likely to continue, but changes in the political situations around Kurdistan may have a beneficial effect when it comes to that conflict. If Syria can be stabilised with the proposed federal format, then some of the dangers coming from that direction can be reduced, allowing for more concentration of effort on the conflicts closest to Kurdistan. The peshmerga will undoubtedly continue to do a great job, and I would like to echo President Barzani’s comments in thanking them for their efforts.
Economically, there are signs that there might be continuing challenges, because of the slowdown in the world economy. Yet Kurdistan will probably also find itself better placed to deal with these challenges than it has been. It is currently working to restructure elements of its economy on more sustainable lines, issues around the transportation of oil may be possible to resolve, and Kurdistan’s burgeoning international relations may well start to have an economic impact in the near future.
In terms of Kurdistan’s independence, there is every chance that this will be the year when it holds its referendum on the issue. The only thing that has been holding it back has been the need for stability before it can organise the process. The same disruptions that have made elections harder to bring about have also gotten in the way of Kurdistan’s ability to ask its people what they want for its future.
Yet it seems likely that at least some of those issues will start to stabilise. It also seems like that the same conferences that allow people to discuss the future of the region more generally will also allow Kurdistan to discuss the future with Baghdad and come to terms over the shape their respective futures will take. This might well be the year when Baghdad realises that Kurdistan isn’t likely to be coming back, and so seeks to explore the circumstances under which it will leave.
There may even start to be some answer to the refugee questions in Kurdistan, although with so many people displaced into the region, there are few quick answers to an ongoing crisis. What we may find, however, is that as the pressures from the other aspects are reduced, the knock on effects on the refugee crisis are also helped.
These are all important issues for the coming year, yet we must not forget about the importance of simple day to day life. It is easy to focus on crisis management and the large problems that Kurdistan will hopefully be able to solve in the coming year, but countries are composed of people, and Newroz is an opportunity for everyone in Kurdistan to reflect on their lives for the coming year.
It is also an opportunity for them to reflect on the history and traditions that have brought them to this point. Newroz is an important tradition, not just because of the sense of the new it brings, but because of the connection it provides to the past. It is an opportunity to remember what it means to be Kurdish, wherever in the world you happen to be. It is a chance to celebrate in ways that have become traditional, and to celebrate a long held connection to the past.
History is important to the Kurds, providing both a sense of identity and an understanding of the surrounding world. There may be difficulties in celebrating Newroz this year in some parts of the world, but in Kurdistan at least, the security forces will set out to allow people to celebrate it undisturbed, and in the coming year, perhaps Kurdistan will be able to build a new chapter in its long cherished history.
By Davan Yahya Khalil