Fire symbolises renewal in Kurdish culture and is the most important part of the Newroz legend. Here community elders light the fire to commemorate Newroz at the Kurdish Association of Victoria, 2006.
Source: KAV Archives
Newroz is the major festival for Kurdish people, and it has been celebrated for at least 5000 years. Held annually on 21 March, it marks the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere and is the Kurdish New Year.
Newroz celebrates the revival of nature after a harsh winter, and for Kurds it also symbolises victory over oppression. Legend has it that more than 2500 years ago King Dehak ruled with an iron fist. Two snakes grew on his shoulders, and every day two young children were sacrificed to feed them. Under the leadership of Kawa, the Kurdish blacksmith, the people rose up against Dehak and defeated him. The celebration of this victory became what we now know as Newroz.
For some Kurds Newroz has become a symbol of resistance against current oppression. Newroz observances have been banned in Turkey and Syria, but each year Kurds in those countries use this time to stage protests and demand their rights.
For the Kurdish community in Australia, Newroz is the most important occasion of the year. We commemorate an old struggle, but we also celebrate the freedom we have found in Australia to practise our traditions without fear of repression or punishment.