Hundreds of thousands celebrate Newroz in Istanbul, demand freedom for Öcalan

At an impressively large Newroz celebration in Istanbul, hundreds of thousands of people once again showed that the Kurds' struggle for peace, freedom and democracy cannot be suppressed with repression and violence.

At an impressively large Newroz celebration in Istanbul on Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people once again showed that the Kurds' struggle for peace, freedom and democracy cannot be suppressed with repression and violence. "Now is the time for success" was also the slogan of this year's Newroz in the Bosporus metropolis. The main demand - the release of Abdullah Öcalan - echoed through the square in the Yenikapı port district in the form of the slogan "Bijî Serok Apo." Although there was talk of a "celebration," it was more accurate to speak of a day of struggle.

Since the morning, large crowds of people had been streaming into the celebration square in marches. In addition to hundreds of buses, the Istanbul HDP associations had also hired several ferries to transport the participants free of charge. The resistance song Çerxa Şoreşê (The Wheel of Revolution) rang out particularly loudly from the youth movement blocks. The police, who had set up several checkpoints around the Yenikapı harbor, were hopelessly overwhelmed in their attempts to reduce the pace of the demonstration marches in some places. This was compensated in the further course by the prevented participation of a few people in the celebration because of supposedly prohibited symbolism. This mainly involved scarves with the logo of the HDP and the likeness of its imprisoned former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş.

The stage program started with live music by the singer Huriye, accompanied by a street band. With the low temperatures that prevailed, the guests accompanied the concert with especially extensive dancing that made the ground tremble in some places. When a team from the organizing committee stepped up to the microphones to greet the crowd, the cheers almost triggered a quake. After a minute of silence for Mazlum Doğan, Zekiye Alkan and all other "Newroz fallen," the slogans "Şehîd Namirin" and "Bijî Serok Apo" were chanted.

The opening speech of the Istanbul Newroz came from Atilla Özdoğan. It was read from a joint statement by the Newroz Alliance, which, in addition to the HDP and HDK, also includes various small parties and organizations from the left and socialist spectrum, including the "United Fighting Forces" (BMG) and the "Democracy Coalition." Under the slogans "No to war and occupation, no to male-dominated politics, no to racism and discrimination - yes to freedom, women's liberation, ecology, democracy and peace" the line for the common struggle was set. Following this, activists from the Mothers of Peace initiative entered the square and lit the Newroz fire.

Demir: We are the forces that want another Turkey

The stage program continued with political speeches and live music. Esengül Demir, the co-spokesperson of the HDK - the "Democratic Peoples Congress" from which the HDP emerged in 2012 - called Newroz 2022 a "resurrection day" against the regime's repression. After the protests on the March 8 Feminist Day of Struggle, Newroz showed once again that those who "want a different and, above all, democratized Turkey" will not disappear despite all the repression, he said.

"We are hundreds of thousands and our message is, 'We are here and we will continue to resist.' We are the force that will liberate this country from the palace regime. We draw the source of our strength from the unification of people who are in the streets on Women's Struggle Day, Newroz and May Day, raising their voices loudly for their rights and against the policies of the rulers," Demir said.

The HDK spokeswoman went on to call for the release of Abdullah Öcalan. She said that the mastermind of the Kurdish liberation movement was the most important political representative of the Kurds and a key figure in the solution of the Kurdish question. "The end of the isolation system on Imrali and Öcalan's freedom are therefore indispensable for peace in Kurdistan, Turkey and the entire region."

Sancar: Sticking to the third way

HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar also gave a speech. The politician began by congratulating everyone present on the New Year, calling Newroz a "symbol of hope for a new life" that represents resistance to injustice and the hunger for justice. Sancar then addressed the "adherence to the third way" as an initiative for a democratic future for the peoples of Turkey, recalling the contents of the Newroz Declaration issued by Abdullah Öcalan in 2013. This "historic" position paper, he said, had already shown Turkey's societies the way to a "just peace" nine years ago. "This is what we hold on to as a party. Because this is the essence of our strategic position on Turkey," Sancar said. The state, he said, must find its way back to the negotiating table, which it unilaterally overturned in 2015 to return to "total war." He added that the HDP also wants to continue working for an end to escalation and confrontation so that a lasting and just peace can be made possible at the negotiating table.