On the Occasion of 2612 Kurdish New Year Celebration in San Francisco, California
April 2, 2000
By Kani Xulam
It is Newroz 2612! It is the first day of another Kurdish New Year. Happy Newroz. Newroz Pirozbe!
May this one be worthy of its namesake, one that will bring freedom and liberty, not just to the Kurds, but also to our neighbors, the Turks, the Persians, and the Arabs.
Having wished you a Happy Newroz, I wish to acknowledge those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make this gathering possible tonight. Some of you know these quiet heroes of our nation, those who do their tasks without complaint or expectation of praise. I salute them for their dedication and urge them to stand up: Mizo, Memo, Aziz, Berxwedan, and Serxwebun. Please join me in giving them a hearty round of applause.
You all are the hope of our nation. We are very proud of your commitment to Kurdistan.
Friends and fellow Kurds, Newroz is a good time to reflect on our destiny as a nation and contemplate its perilous journeys into the future. Our present predicament is not one of hope. In Iraq, we are gassed. In Turkey, we are beheaded. In Iran, we are machine-gunned. Some have come to believe that this is how you treat the Kurds. The children of Kawa, Rustem and Selahaddin are persecuted in the Middle East and now in the world.
At another time, some 26 centuries ago, apparently we were treated no different. On the eve of the first Newroz, legend tells us that a tyrant by the name of Dehak ruled the Middle East with hatred in his heart and blood in his hands. He abused his subjects, trampled on their rights, and fed the brains of two children to two his serpents each night. Families were distraught. Nations were on their knees. The Middle East cried out for justice and peace.
One day, a Kurdish iron-smith, Kawa, approached the cruel king’s cook and suggested that he spare the life of a child by mixing the brains of a lamb with that of a human for the serpents. The cook complied and each night freed a child to Kawa’s care.
The Kurdish iron-smith hid and fed these children in the mountains of Kurdistan. He trained them as fighters and instilled in them the love of freedom and liberty . On March 21, 612 BC, he led them in an attack on the king’s palace, and ended one of the darkest rules in the Middle East.
The joy was immediate. People made bonfires on the mountaintops to spread the good news with smoke. The ancient Near East witnessed the birth of a new time, Newroz.
Bit the birthplace of Newroz is now filled with new tyrants. It is not surprising that they have banned this ritual of freedom. Some are dissimulating this celebration, but are conveniently forgetting its roots or are reading new meanings into it. A time of defiance has become a time of oppression. Instead of one cruel tyrant, several are competing, and one, Saddam Hussein, can easily qualify for the title of world champion. It is time for another Newroz and another Kawa. This time, too, they are Kurds who have led the charge against oppression.
I am of course referring to the memory of Mazlum Dogan. He was born in Teman, a village outside of Mazgirt in the province of Dersim, in 1955. Like some of you in this room, he went to school in Karakocan. In 1974, he passed the university entrance exams and won the right to go to Hacettepe, an ivy league level school, in Ankara, Turkey.
At Hacettepe, Mazlum Dogan met with other Kurds who introduced him to politics. What began as a casual introduction soon became a vocation. Reading became the passion of his life. Those who knew him well have said that he read up to 500 pages a day. Learning opened his eyes to the cruel world of oppression that reigned all around. He vowed to fight injustice, if need be with his life.
Others have said it before and I wish to repeat it here: Lucky is the nation that gives birth to sons such as Mazlum Dogan. His mother has related to the viewers of Med TV that he lived not just for the Kurds but for all of humanity. He dreamed of a Middle East free of oppression. He conceived the idea of a confederation of the Middle Eastern peoples along with Kemal Pir. He lived for one goal alone, and that wasto free the Kurds.
In the fall of 1979, he was in Viransehir, Riha, organizing the Kurds for political rights. On September 30, 1979, he was arrested and later placed in the infamous Diyarbakir Military Prison along with thousands of others Kurds. For three years, he endured abuse, torture, and humiliation. A political prisoner, he was ordered to wear a prison uniform. He refused. A Kurd, he was beaten to sing the Turkish national anthem. He let his body take the beating but did not let his lips sing the anthem. Other, more cruel indignities followed suit.
Another Kurd who lived in the same prison with Mazlum Dogan has written a poem about what he and his friends endured in those dark and barbaric days. I would like to read a few lines from it:
bir gece bir sabah
degil o gun
sondurmus tum isiltisini yildizlar
saklanmis ardina ofkesinin,
doganin en sefil yaratiklari Ö
puslu bir bahar sabahi,
ve yasa maddeleri siralamislar
en igrenc pozlariyla generaller
ve ovgu duzuyor
kahrolasi suskunluk …
Yes, it was a deafening silence. The world was indifferent to the suffering of the Kurds. One by one, in the Diyarbakir Military Prison, the Kurds were beaten into submission. There were times when the torture never stopped. No one could think of a way out. Only Mazlum Dogan did.
On March 21, 1982, he did the ultimate. He bid us all a farewell by setting himself on fire. In so doing, he became a light, a star if you will, and shined on the darkness that had become the Kurdish world. A bereaved nation took in its sorrow and has since honored him as the new Kawa of the Middle East.
Since then other fearless and selfless Kurdish women have followed in the foot steps of Mazlum Dogan. Zekiye Alkan, Rahsan Demirel, Ronahi, and Berivan have joined this immortal Kurdish soul in heaven from Kurdish populated centers in Amed, Izmir, and Mannheim. Baptized in fire, these children of Kurdistan have made the birth of our nation absolute, permanent, and forever.
Long live Newroz!
Long live Kurdistan!