Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nawroz- New Year

President Barzani hosts ambassadors for Newroz celebrations: “We are committed to principles of freedom, democracy, justice”

Erbil, Kurdistan – Iraq ( – President Masoud Barzani this week in Kurdistan hosted ambassadors and other diplomats to Iraq for three days of festivities to celebrate Newroz, the Kurdish New Year.

The Kurds have celebrated Newroz, which means New Day, for over 2,500 years.  It falls on the spring equinox and thus it represents hope, unity and renewal. However, for the Kurds, the holiday also symbolises freedom from oppression. According to the myth, a Kurdish hero named Kawa the blacksmith defeated a tyrannical king on the eve of Newroz, and lit fires on the hilltops to announce his victory.

Referring to the myth, President Barzani said, “As human beings need food, water, and air to live, they also need freedom.  Life is meaningless if people are not free.” Commenting on the current struggles that face the region, he said, “As Kawa laid this foundation over 2,500 years ago, we will stay committed to the principles of freedom, democracy and justice.”

Croatian Ambassador Jerko Vokas, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Baghdad, in his speech talked of the struggles that the Kurds have witnessed. He said, “The Kurdish people in their long history have gone through many difficult challenges in the struggle for survival. However, today, when we celebrate Newroz in peace, we cannot help but notice how rapidly the Kurdistan Region is developing.”

Ambassador Vokas also commended President Barzani on his vision for the region and the positive role the Kurds continue to play in the Federal Republic of Iraq.

The visit by more than 36 ambassadors and representatives of foreign countries and international organizations from Baghdad and Erbil was arranged by the Federal Foreign Ministry in Baghdad, in collaboration with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Department of Foreign Relations. This was the second time that the KRG has hosted Iraq’s diplomatic community for Newroz celebrations.

Commenting on the increasing number of diplomatic guests at this year’s celebrations, Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, the KRG’s Head of Foreign Relations, said, ‘We are delighted to have the diplomatic missions accredited to Iraq join us in celebrating Newroz. This event has been an opportunity for the diplomatic community to come together, witness this special yearly tradition, and take part in its jubilant celebrations. Moreover, this was another opportunity for the diplomatic community to experience Kurdish culture and its warm hospitality. The event shows our continued desire to foster stronger relations with the international community.”

The celebrations began on Sunday, the eve of Newroz. The visiting diplomats and several Iraqi and KRG ministers and officials enjoyed the lighting of a
Newroz fire, a play, dinner, music, and dancing by renowned Kurdish, Arab, Turkoman, and Assyrian artists. Those attending included Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament Dr Kamal Kirkuki, KRG Prime Minister Barham Salih, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Deputy  Foreign Minister Labbed Abbawi, Chief of Staff to the President Dr Fuad Hussein, Minister Bakir, Minister of Culture and Youth Kawa Mahmoud, Education Minister Safeen Dizayee, Trade and Industry Minister Sinanthropus Chalabi, and Transport & Communication Minister Anwar Jabali Sabo. 

Several other KRG and Iraqi ministers and officials also participated, such as the Head of Kurdistan’s Intelligence Protection Agency Masrour Barzani and Interior Minister Karim Sinjari.

Ambassador Ad Melkert, the Special Representative to the UN Secretary General, was among the 36 visiting ambassadors, foreign representatives and international organisations. There are 20 diplomatic missions based in Erbil; their consuls and staff also participated in the festivities.

On Monday, the day of Newroz, President Barzani and the guests visited Bekhal waterfall and saw tens of thousands of people picnicking in the countryside. They attended music and dance performances and a luncheon at Pank Resort in the hills of Rawanduz, where they were welcomed by the mayor and local representatives. At the resort, a children’s choir sang some national songs and nomadic goat-hair tents showed the international guests the traditional Kurdish way of life.  At an evening banquet, some of the diplomats joined in traditional folk dances.

On Tuesday the guests toured Erbil citadel, which has been nominated as a UNESCO world heritage site and is the oldest continually inhabited fortress in the world. The governor of Erbil Nawzad Hadi informed the diplomats about the work of the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalisation (HCECR), a joint programme with UNESCO to conserve and restore the area. The tour also included a brief visit to the town centre, local bazaars, a new shopping
mall and Shanidar Park.

The ambassadors and representative of foreign countries and international organisations commended the Kurdistan Region Government for the Region’s rapid development, made possible by its stability and security.

The diplomats thanked President Barzani for his invitation and commended the work of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations and the Federal Foreign Ministry and others, including the protocol and logistics teams for delivering an enjoyable and memorable experience.

The ambassadors and foreign representatives of these countries and international organisations attended the Newroz celebrations: Croatia, China, United Arab Emirates, Russian Federation, France, Turkey, Germany, Netherlands, Egypt, UK, Bangladesh, South Korea, Jordan , US, Poland, Algeria, Armenia, Romania, Palestine, Lebanon, Pakistan, Morocco, Serbia, Yemen, Spain, Slovakia, Brazil , Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Norway, Georgia,
South Africa, Czech Republic, Kuwait, India, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, UN Secretary General’s Special Representative, and the EU.

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