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A new mark on Nevruz

Wednesday 28 March 2007, by Mehmet Ali Birand

Source : TDN, 23/03/2007

This year’s Nevruz celebrations went very differently than in previous years. It was full of signs that some things have changed, that a new era has started.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was seen at the forefronts in previous years. It would organize demonstrations; it would determine where attacks on security forces would take place. Nevruz would become an event during which the PKK would show off its influence on the people of the region and prove its power.

This year the PKK was not at the forefront. Instead, the Democratic Society Party (DTP) was in the foreground. They determined where and how the demonstrations would be made. They were able to hold the events under their control. They could even prevent some groups inclining toward turmoil from exaggerating. The DTP knew how to show its strength and effectiveness on the squares.

They followed a very wise strategy. They should have persuaded the PKK administrators as they were able to prevent Nevruz from becoming a tour de force, while; on the contrary, they managed to turn it into a political event. They put on a “show,” during which there were songs and rejoicing galore, resembling festivities for propaganda of a political party soon to enter elections.

Besides the DTP, two names have come forward during the festivities - that of the PKK imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan and that of former deputy Leyla Zana

Clear message in an indirect way:

It was known since a couple of weeks back that Öcalan’s name would be brought forward and that messages would be conveyed over İmralı, the island where Öcalan is kept. In fact, this is exactly what happened.

The message that was conveyed regarding Öcalan was very clear.

It was signaled that, unless Öcalan’s conditions in his İmralı cell are improved and the complaints about his health are not taken seriously, thousands of people filling up the squares would ask for an account. It was almost implied that the thousands of people coming together for Nevruz were Öcalan’s guardians.

In plain language, this is Öcalan threatening the state. It is not even reading in between the lines. It is a clear threat.

This year’s Nevruz, with its method of organization and the number of people on the squares, must have come as a disappointment. The expected hundreds of thousands were not there. It was a weak participation in general. Beforehand, there was talk about masses of 500,000 people. It was not even as crowded as the popular singer Sezen Aksu’s last Diyarbakır concert.

When the instructions not to create disturbance were combined with the calm attitude of security forces, what was feared was avoided.

On Wednesday, the DTP gave the image of a political movement whose leader was in jail. It stood by Öcalan on the squares.

Why did Leyla Zana leave ? Why did she come back ?

When she was released from prison, Leyla Zana gave the impression that she was advancing toward becoming the leader of the Kurdish movement. She was convening with her friends and gearing up to come up with a whole new development.

Then, all of a sudden, she disappeared.

There were rumors that Öcalan got enraged, that she was met with resentment because she was too much under the spotlight. She was not seen for a long while. There was talk that she lived in northern Iraq. It was presumed that her political life was over.

Then on Wednesday, she had a magnificent comeback.

She sat with DTP leader Ahmet Türk and delivered a heated speech.

So, confirmation was received from İmralı. Otherwise, no force would have been able to bring her up there.

Leyla Zana has prestige especially in Europe. She is seen as a symbol. Besides, her praising words about Öcalan as well as Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani during her speech implied the influence of northern Iraqi administration in her comeback.

This is for all these reasons that I conclude this year’s Nevruz was very different from all others and that a new era has started.

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