KRG Representative Ziyad Raoof’s special statement on the occasion of Newroz

On March 21, in the day of Newroz- Kurdish New Year, we used to meet to celebrate and enjoy together the most important national day of Kurds. But this time, music, dancing and dinner with Kurdish cuisine would certainly be uncalled for.

A year ago, we celebrated Newroz in the atmosphere of pride in the Kurds’ playing a key role in defeating ISIS and the joy of the upcoming independence referendum. This year we are overwhelmed with sadness: the peaceful and democratically expressed will of the Kurds in the referendum on September 25 met with the brutal retaliatory reaction of the Iraqi authorities and the Shia militias supported by neighbouring countries, with the surprising indifference of the international community. The Peshmerga soldiers were martyred again and almost 150,000 Kurdish civilians from Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatu and other cities had to flee. They are living in refugee camps to the present day because they have nowhere to go – their homes, farms and shops have been robbed, burned, destroyed or confiscated by aggressors. Kurdish cities in so-called disputed territories, as in the 1970s in the time of Saddam Hussein, begin to be subjected to arabization again – Arabs are settled there with the aim of changing the ethnic structure, the use of Kurdish language is prohibited, Kurdish schools and party headquarters are closed, our symbols are destroyed, in the occupied territories it will not be possible to celebrate Newroz.

Despite international pressure in favour of resolving conflict between Erbil and Baghdad according to the constitution and repeated promises of prime minister Abadi, repression takes on an increasingly deeper dimension, as evidenced by the adoption by the Iraqi parliament of the budget reducing the subsidy guaranteed to the Kurdistan Region in the constitution. According to the Kurds, but also experts from the World Bank, this is amount of money insufficient to meet the needs of Iraqi Kurdistan citizens. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds are waiting for outstanding wages. This state of affairs is clearly in conflict with assurances of the authorities in Baghdad that the Kurds are equal citizens of Iraq.

To make matters worse, 1,500 000 refugees are still living in refugee camps in Kurdistan Region. They can not return to their homes because of the lack of basic infrastructure, slow reconstruction and terror of shia militia. The authorities in Baghdad do not provide any single Dinar for the protection of refugees and because of the fact that Kurdish airports have been closed for several months for international connections, foreign humanitarian aid has been reduced.

The situation of Kurds in other parts of Kurdistan is equally difficult, especially in Rojava, where they also fall victim to military aggression. Hundreds of innocent civilians were killed in Afrin, homes and hospitals were destroyed in bombardments and robbed by invaders, tens of thousands of people were forced to flee. In the background of political and military games against Kurds, their long-standing dedication is being eradicated. ISIS and other formations of Islamic radicals have not been finally defeated, they have regrouped and now they gather steam in the Syrian-Iraqi borderland.

Regardless of how difficult our situation is this year, on the occasion of Newroz, I offer best wishes of health, prosperity and optimism. I believe that next year we will be able to celebrate the Kurdish New Year together in peace, free from persecution.