At a huge rally to mark Kurdish new year, or Newroz, in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) called for the militant group to hold discussions on ending their 30-year armed struggle against the Turkish state. However, he stopped short of declaring an immediate end to the hostilities.
Hundreds of thousands of Kurds had gathered to hear Abdullah Ocalan's message and celebrate new year. Organisers claimed a million people attended, but there were no official figures. Large screens showed Ocalan's face while many waved the flags of his militant group. The mere display of Kurdish insignia, let alone an image of Ocalan, could have brought arrest and imprisonment less than a decade ago.
Newroz is an important festival marking the arrival of spring and the Persian new year.
Newroz (also spelled Nowruz) is also celebrated in other countries that use the Persian calendar, such as Iraq, Azerbaijan, Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The calendar takes as its start date the time when the Prophet Mohammad moved from Mecca to Medina in 621 AD. The current Persian year is 1394.
This article was first published on March 23, 2015